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Modesty: To Know a Veil
August 1, 2010 9:48 AM   Subscribe

"We're not telling you what to wear -- we're just telling you what we, as guys, have to guard against." What 1600 teenage Christian boys think girls shouldn't be wearing.
posted by hermitosis (235 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is real?
posted by josher71 at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2010


1600 teenage Christian boys are a stumbling block.
posted by nomadicink at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2010 [31 favorites]


I hardly even know how to respond to this. I mean, besides with "fuck that."
posted by Caduceus at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


Jeans of any kind, it turns out, are a "stumbling block". Well, I'll be.
posted by everichon at 9:52 AM on August 1, 2010


Look! A searchable list of boys you should never date, right there on the bottom of the page.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:53 AM on August 1, 2010 [129 favorites]


500 Internal Server Error

Oh, the metaphor...
posted by quarsan at 9:54 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Internal server error" on all results. That server didn't last long...
posted by fencerjimmy at 9:54 AM on August 1, 2010


Well, you know, evolution is just quackery, but this... this is science! They've got graphs and everything!
posted by Crane Shot at 9:55 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hmph. Cheap server. Plugged up like a constipated chipmunk.
posted by drhydro at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, we must guard against girls being girls. It's all their fault obviously, not a shred of personal responsibility.
posted by arcticseal at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Calves? Friggen Calves?

I love how they admit it's completely ridiculous to think that showing your calves is "immodest".
posted by Sara C. at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2010


Ooo, it was back up for just a second there...

Jeans of any kind, it turns out, are a "stumbling block". Well, I'll be.

Actually the results say that 77% disagree with that statement.
posted by hermitosis at 9:57 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


By rights, the "dirtypillows" tag should be added to this post as well.
posted by Drastic at 9:58 AM on August 1, 2010 [10 favorites]


I don't like the word "modesty," but I suppose it's easier to say that "the mechanism by which the fearful make the world boring."
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:59 AM on August 1, 2010 [74 favorites]


body shame is short enough.
posted by rhyax at 10:01 AM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


What 1600 teenage Christian boys think girls shouldn't be wearing.

Clothes.

Teenage boys are teenage boys I don't care what their religion is.
posted by MikeMc at 10:03 AM on August 1, 2010 [51 favorites]


Are these young men not allowed to masturbate? That might explain why they're inflamed by calves.
posted by longsleeves at 10:05 AM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


WHAT WOULD JESUS WEAR ?!?
posted by mazola at 10:06 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Showing cleavage when wearing a swimsuit is, if anything, worse than showing cleavage in a normal situation. Swimming pools are going to have enough temptations for a guy as it is, and to be frank, wet cleavage is more of a stumbling block than dry cleavage.
posted by fixedgear at 10:08 AM on August 1, 2010


What's good for the goose is good for the gander, boys. Remember, it's a stumbling block for Christian girls to see a boy sitting with his legs spread apart.
posted by frobozz at 10:09 AM on August 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wait: Minch Minchin, Josh Hottenstein, Silas Blodgett, Levi Naumu, Ezekial Willcox, Levi Jungling?

Sounds like a random name-generator at work. In other words, prove to me these kids are real.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:09 AM on August 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


But how many of those boys restrict themselves to side hugs?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:10 AM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Was there any point to posting this other than LOLZ LETS BASH CHRISTIANZ!

Of course this is silly, but the only point of a thread like this is to give everyone the opportunity to get their digs in on an easy target.
posted by resiny at 10:10 AM on August 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


Server crapped out before I could conduct a thorough review, but does it actually provide patterns to make your own Jesus Burqa or are you supposed to infer that from the aggregate list of "stumbling blocks"?
posted by gompa at 10:10 AM on August 1, 2010


There was some good analysis of this on socimages where there were some interesting comments too.
Immodesty, then, is not simply about being vigilant about your clothing (don’t wear a purse that falls diagonally across your body, don’t show your arms or your thighs), it’s a constant vigilance about how you display your body (don’t stretch, bend, or bounce). “Clothing plays a part in modesty, but it is only a part,” an 18 year old male explains, “Any item of clothing can be immodest” (his emphasis).

In addition, these rules are potentially changing all the time. A “technically modest” outfit, such as a school uniform, can suddenly have immodest connotations (so watch MTV, girls, to stay on top of these shifting meanings)

This is a great deal of self-monitoring for girls. Not just when they shop, but when they get dressed, and all day as they move, and with constant re-evaluation of their clothes and how they fit. But, the rationale is, they must be vigilant and obey these rules in order to protect guys from the power of all bodies (both their own sexiness, and men’s biological response to it). Guys are burdened with lust, they insist.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:11 AM on August 1, 2010 [26 favorites]


I appreciate being made aware of misogyny, resiny.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:13 AM on August 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


Also, I just want to get the phrase "Christian Taliban" out there.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:14 AM on August 1, 2010 [22 favorites]


Was there any point to posting this other than LOLZ LETS BASH CHRISTIANZ!

As a former Christian who left the church as a teenager due to sexual-orientation conflicts, I found it quite fascinating. I think that plenty of people could read this as a LOLXtians post, but l think the statistical information actually makes it far more valuable than that. YMMV.
posted by hermitosis at 10:16 AM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


1600 teenage Christians agree (on what Helen should not wear.)
posted by davejay at 10:17 AM on August 1, 2010 [21 favorites]


I don't like the word "modesty"

Perhaps we can "reclaim" it modesty for quiet dignified types who aren't attention whores.
posted by rhymer at 10:17 AM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Are these young men not allowed to masturbate?"

No they're not, because masturbation is a homosexual act. And the sin of Onan and all that. (There are a million such pages claiming this; google for more.)

As much as it offends me as a moral agent and a sane person to hear this "argument," it bothers me more as a logician to see an irreflexive relation turned into a reflexive one. I mean, it's like these people have never even heard of the T axiom, much less worked through S5.
posted by el_lupino at 10:17 AM on August 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Also, I just want to get the phrase "Christian Taliban" out there.

Hysterical. Because having excessively stringent standards of modesty is the same as brutalizing women, murdering them when they're raped, enslaving them.
posted by resiny at 10:18 AM on August 1, 2010


So 1.7% of these Christian guys are really turned on by calves—what's wrong with that? Shaming them into believing it's immodest, rather than sexy, is, however, a stumbling block.
posted by domnit at 10:20 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was there any point to posting this other than LOLZ LETS BASH CHRISTIANZ!

There have been two posts about Jewish subjects in the past two days that contained explicit criticisms of oppressive behavior embedded in aspects of Judaism -- sexism in the Orthodox community and an anti-Muslim action of the ADL. The thread that directly preceded this is about a Christian who went to jail for an act of conscience.

I am as sensitive to unfair and outright dismissals of religion as anybody, but I'd say this is an instance where a weird social phenomenon genuinely exists, and complaining that Christians are somehow being unfairly mocked doesn't serve much purpose except to try and shut down discussion about it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:21 AM on August 1, 2010 [31 favorites]


Perhaps we can "reclaim" it modesty for quiet dignified types who aren't attention whores.

I don't actually like those people either. STOP BORING ME EVERYBODY.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:23 AM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's not just what they shouldn't be wearing, it's also what they shouldn't be doing -- the "Posture/Movement" category has questions about girls sitting cross-legged, bending over, and stretching.
posted by JanetLand at 10:23 AM on August 1, 2010


i grew up with a pamphlet called For the Strength of Youth--that had a solid 10 or 15 points about what boys or girls could wear. This only led me to fetishize bright white shirts, black pants, and subtly patterned ties.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:23 AM on August 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Calves? Friggen Calves?

I was surprised to see his name on the signatories list too.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:23 AM on August 1, 2010 [24 favorites]


Reading about all that immodest Christian dress gave me a stumbling block. In my pants.

masturbation is a homosexual act.
posted by el_lupino at 1:17 PM on August 1


Not if you dress in women's clothing first. But keep it modest or you might go too far with yourself, and then how could you respect yourself?

I love this sort of crazy.
posted by Decani at 10:24 AM on August 1, 2010 [20 favorites]


Layering. Not only is the premise that teenage boys know what layering is, but that these boys have opinions about it.
posted by ifandonlyif at 10:25 AM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


having excessively stringent standards of modesty is the same as brutalizing women, murdering them when they're raped, enslaving them.

Are you saying that women who don't conform to these standards will never be ostracized, "taught a lesson,", or be seen as deliberately inviting attack? That is wonderful news! I would like to read your literature.
posted by hermitosis at 10:26 AM on August 1, 2010 [20 favorites]


This only led me to fetishize bright white shirts, black pants, and subtly patterned ties.

Kinky.
posted by clearly at 10:26 AM on August 1, 2010


No they're not, because masturbation is a homosexual act.

I guess I'm gonna have to sit down and have a talk with my wife.
posted by davejay at 10:28 AM on August 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


I don't blame them. Nobody should walk around wearing an Internal Server Error.
posted by jonmc at 10:29 AM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


I saw this a couple days ago and thought about posting it, and then I thought Nah.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:30 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


What 1600 teenage Christian boys think girls shouldn't be wearing but hope they will anyway.
posted by BaxterG4 at 10:31 AM on August 1, 2010


"Was there any point to posting this other than LOLZ LETS BASH CHRISTIANZ!"

I would argue that it's valuable to know how even a segment of the population sees itself, and how that segment categorizes the behavior of half of the human race. And I mean, this isn't even a survey done by an outsider - this was all done within their own social sphere, for their own use. And we've already seen some comments about the insane section on behavior - these boys and men clearly have no idea:
a) what they're commanding women to do and,
b) of the existence of women as sexual beings in their own right
Attitudes like this are represented, to greater and lesser degrees, by a pretty significant section of our population. And that's not worth posting?

Come on.

Stated differently: how is this not a best of the web?
posted by kavasa at 10:31 AM on August 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


It was said in the context of another thread, and another topic, but the point was a very good one: religions of almost any strain except the most liberal share "Don't trust women" as part of their core ideology.

Don't trust women to make decisions for themselves. Don't trust women to make their own health choices. Don't trust women to dress themselves. Don't trust women to take an equal place in society.

Of course, it can rarely be said that directly, so the statement becomes weirdly reversed: "We men just can't help ourselves! If you wouldn't be so damned tempting, everything would be fine!" It implies an odd, demeaning infantalisation of men: now who's helpless?
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:32 AM on August 1, 2010 [73 favorites]


Not only is masturbation a homosexual act, but you walk around all day with your tongue in your mouth french kissing yourself. Gaaaaayyy!
posted by fleetmouse at 10:33 AM on August 1, 2010 [67 favorites]


Hey everybody - since this site seems to be down at the moment, I just went out and did my own informal survey of 1600 teenage Christian boys; and, astoundingly, every single one of them gave me the very same list of things they think females shouldn't wear. So, girls and women of the world, in case you'd like to take the position of teenage Christian boys into account when choosing outfits, I present their comprehensive list of things that they'd rather you didn't wear:

clothing of any kind
posted by koeselitz at 10:33 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This would be a lot more effective if they used simple pictures instead of words.

the only point of a thread like this is to give everyone the opportunity to get their digs in on an easy target

Your words.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:34 AM on August 1, 2010


How long until some of these boys are asked to "carry Pastor's luggage" on a trip because of his recent back surgery?
posted by MikeMc at 10:35 AM on August 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


Are you saying that women who don't conform to these standards will never be ostracized, "taught a lesson,", or be seen as deliberately inviting attack? That is wonderful news! I would like to read your literature.

Perhaps first you could show me yours. I don't usually make it a habit of saying that something could "never" happen. But if by "taught a lesson" you mean some sort of physical intimidation, then I would guess that incidents of such nature occur with extreme scarcity.

To compare the odd route some branches of contemporary Christianity in American have gone with regards to feminine modesty with the Taliban is ludicrous.
posted by resiny at 10:35 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah but whatever, did you hear? Liberals want to IMPOSE SHARIA LAW!
posted by drmanhattan at 10:36 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, I have to say, that is a significant thing that homosexuals and members of some religions have in common -- members of both groups are, in many cases, taught that their natural sexual urges are somehow bad and unclean and wrong.

What's interesting to me, in this particular case, is the difference between "you are bad and wrong and it is all your fault" (what homosexuals and members of some religions are taught) and "those are bad and wrong feelings, and it is the fault of those people who make you feel that way" (what members of some other religions are taught, as illustrated in this case.)

It's a pretty fundamental difference (no pun intended), and that folks taught the latter way occasionally end up openly hostile to folks taught the former way makes a lot of sense.

Consider: let's say I'm one of these 1600 kids, except that I'm also a homosexual. I was taught that the feelings that straight boys have are bad, wrong, and the fault of the girls who inspire those feelings. I'm also taught that homosexuals are bad people for having their feelings. Now, another homosexual boy lets me know they're attracted to me -- and I'm put in a position of feeling like I'ma bad person (both for inspiring those feelings in him, and because the result is he's a bad person.)

If I had that kind of a self-loathing mindfuck going on, I would have a really hard time being anything other than hateful to homosexuals (including myself.) Plus, if you're in that position and attracted to another person, you're going to hate them for making you feel that way and making you a bad person, which would seem like an openly hostile act. What a horrible circle of shame that must be.
posted by davejay at 10:36 AM on August 1, 2010 [23 favorites]


The concept of modesty itself is interesting to me - it's not really something I've ever understood, though I get that it's all tied up in shame. It saddens me that for these 1600 Christian boys (allegedly - I share my doubts that these kids are real) modesty is entirely a feminine issue, one which creates "stumbling blocks" for them. It doesn't surprise me, but it does make me wonder if they really thought about the idea, about the weirdness of "indecency" and "impropriety" and all that jazz.
posted by lriG rorriM at 10:37 AM on August 1, 2010


To compare the odd route some branches of contemporary Christianity in American have gone with regards to feminine modesty with the Taliban is ludicrous.

Why? (I'm not the one who made that comparison, but I'd still be interested in hearing it discussed.)
posted by hermitosis at 10:38 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Calves? Friggen Calves?

Never underestimate the power of toned, tanned calves...
posted by MikeMc at 10:39 AM on August 1, 2010


It seems like every time I try to use a web application made by a right wing group it performs like absolute dog shit.
posted by codacorolla at 10:40 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Because having excessively stringent standards of modesty is the same as brutalizing women, murdering them when they're raped, enslaving them.

It is. Because that is what they'd be doing if we let them get away with it.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 10:40 AM on August 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Well that's it. I am buying myself some golden stockings to cover up my calves, so then my "golden calves" may be properly worshiped.
posted by Oyéah at 10:40 AM on August 1, 2010 [21 favorites]


a) what they're commanding women to do and,


Did you read the disclaimers? They're not commanding women to do anything. It's more along the lines of "hey, girls, we take responsibility for our private thoughts, but we thought maybe we could help you help us by letting you know what we struggle with."

Now, what's unfortunate is that these guys seem to think that finding a woman attractive is a sin, so a girl's very existence is pretty much a stumbling block.
posted by resiny at 10:41 AM on August 1, 2010


This reminds me of the stupid joke about what the number one cause for pedophilia is (answer: sexy children). This dress and / or behavior code completely absolves men of any wrongdoing and places the blame for any temptation squarely on the women, similar to the she-was-asking-for-it defense in rape cases.
I hate stuff like this because, as a heterosexual male, I'd like to think that I am perfectly capable of respectful and level-headed social contact with women, that I am not influenced by my libido to that degree, and that I can appreciate the beauty of the female form without negative consequences for her or me. Portraying me as a weak-willed creature, subject to uncontrollable urges, filled with dark desires and longings which I have to consciously suppress all the time so I won't pounce on the nearest female really bothers me.

Another thing I find strange is that the front page (what I could read of it before their server died a fiery death) stresses inner values above external appearance - and then goes ahead and makes character judgments based on the way people dress.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 10:41 AM on August 1, 2010 [17 favorites]


I hastily skimmed the title of this discussion, assumed it was about what teenaged boys in the 1600's found attractive, and thought it would be all about cross-garters and yellow-stockings.

Comments like these:

Well that's it. I am buying myself some golden stockings to cover up my calves, so then my "golden calves" may be properly worshiped.


Did not help.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:44 AM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


You say you want a Rebelution, well I know, we all want to change our clothes...
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:44 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why? (I'm not the one who made that comparison, but I'd still be interested in hearing it discussed.)

Seriously? Do you think it's standard practice (or at least occasional practice) among Christians in America to murder a woman after she has been raped? How many Christian women in America are enslaved? Not figuratively, or as a poetic exaggeration, but actually enslaved to their husbands/owners (whom they didn't choose). How many Christian women in America are regularly beaten with no recourse or escape possible?
posted by resiny at 10:45 AM on August 1, 2010


I have no problems with the concept of modesty, when it's self-directed. I've gone through greater and lesser periods of modesty in my life, and recently went so far as to have an ankle-length skirt custom-made because I couldn't find anything long, full, knit, and with pockets. People have the right to dress in the manner in which they feel comfortable, and people can be more comfortable in more modest dress for reasons that have nothing to do with religion or shame or repression or anything.

Telling girls that they have to cover up or else it induces boys to sin, though? That's fucked up and, frankly, un-Christian from my perspective. Nobody is responsible for my thoughts and feelings except me. If I'm uncomfortable with the level of sexual awareness I'm projecting onto the people around me, that's my problem.
posted by KathrynT at 10:46 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


This dress and / or behavior code completely absolves men of any wrongdoing and places the blame for any temptation squarely on the women

They explicitly say this is not the case on the website.
posted by resiny at 10:46 AM on August 1, 2010


Did you read the disclaimers? They're not commanding women to do anything. It's more along the lines of "hey, girls, we take responsibility for our private thoughts, but we thought maybe we could help you help us by letting you know what we struggle with."

They do not take responsibility. With this, they do the opposite. This survey was not a list of ways for male Christian teens to control their lust, it was a list of things they don't want women to do.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:46 AM on August 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh yeah, I also meant to comment on some of the same things davejay is talking about. Has anyone asked these kids if they share the same responsibility to police themselves that the women do? After all, don't they want to help their unfortunate queer brothers in faith avoid their own stumbles? And if these rules only apply to pairings where both sides are possibly interested in each other, then are lesbians free to dress and behave entirely as they wish? After all, women are devoid of desires of their own*, so lesbians don't have to defend against tempting each other.

*"Sisters in Christ, you really have no concept of the struggles that guys face on a daily basis"
posted by kavasa at 10:47 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suggest girls start shopping from the Oriental Trading Company catalog. It's the only way to be sure.

(Now THAT would have been a LOLXtians post.)
posted by hermitosis at 10:48 AM on August 1, 2010


YOU KNOW WHAT? YOU KNOW WHAT?! YOU WANT TO BE NINETEEN SOMETEEN?! GO AHEAD! YOU JUST STAY THE FUCK OUT OF EVERYBODY'S FACE UNTIL YOU GOT THE FUCKIN' JUICE TO GET A JOB WHERE THEY GIVE YOU A CHAIR!
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:48 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's nice to know where "Ben Dover, 23" stands on this issue but Seymour Butz and Sacha Payne-Diaz have not weighed in yet.

I'd rather laugh at this than consider its dark implications. You can't put a pretty dress on misogyny.
posted by chairface at 10:54 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Man, it's really too bad that they didn't do any statistical analyses on these results other than frequencies. I'd love to look at how type of Christianity moderates the results, although I don't see that they gathered data on that.
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:56 AM on August 1, 2010


"They explicitly say this is not the case on the website."

resiny, it doesn't seem that simple to me. Yes they say that it is their responsibility to "guard against temptations" and what have you, but the story doesn't stop with what the subjects say.
1. Boys/men claim no responsibility for any "temptations" they may cause
2. They characterize the female body as, to steal the words of the socimages place, able to burden them with lust
3. They have created a truly insane list of behaviors that women must self-police if they want to "partner" with the men in being good christians, while claiming that they're just exhausted by the effort of guarding against things

So, yes, they have made the claim that they're being egalitarian. I think that's a huge part of the problem, since they see such a lopsided system as being somehow equal. I would also argue that it plays into the shaming/pathologizing of women's desires that we (as a culture) are so practiced at.
posted by kavasa at 10:57 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


All I want to know is:

a) when will my signature ("Ben Dover") appear on the list?
b) will the "Rebelution" be televised?
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I wish they collected a few more variables and released the raw data. This is an interesting project and should continue. At the very least, they should get a better server or sysadmin.

Speaking of which, can all the outraged people above actually see the results? Because I can't, so if I assume it's not a local problem then this thread just looks like a lot of people jumping to conclusions.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2010


You can't put a pretty dress on misogyny.
posted by chairface at 1:54 PM on August 1


Oh, but if only you could... imagine the thrilling, guilt-drenched hate-sex you could have with it!
posted by Decani at 11:01 AM on August 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


Seriously? Do you think it's standard practice (or at least occasional practice) among Christians in America to murder a woman after she has been raped? How many Christian women in America are enslaved? Not figuratively, or as a poetic exaggeration, but actually enslaved to their husbands/owners (whom they didn't choose). How many Christian women in America are regularly beaten with no recourse or escape possible?
posted by resiny at 10:45 AM on August 1


From what I recall, it only took fifty years for the Islamic world to go from liberal, egalitarian society to "traditional", burka-enforcing jihadists.
posted by rebent at 11:05 AM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


What kavasa said. Saying one thing while doing/believing another is not new. Framing their "DON'T WEAR THIS LEST YOU TEMPT THE RAGE OF OUR WEAK-WILLED PEENER-DEMONS" list as "just a suggestion" only makes their creepiness more passive-aggressive and insidious. The sensible response of "telling women what to wear is stupid" then gets drowned out by "how dare you, I was merely making a little suggestion when I put together this huge, detailed survey of what women shouldn't wear or do."
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:06 AM on August 1, 2010 [21 favorites]


I have not seen anyone postulate this yet, but it is my belief that these things are only viewed as "indecent" because people say they are viewed as indecent. Everyone knows this. "When everyone is immodest, nobody is" etc. Just make churches into nude-only places, and immodesty will go way down.
posted by rebent at 11:09 AM on August 1, 2010


I'm just impressed by the number of "Christian boys" in their thirties.

FOREVER YOUNG THROUGH CHRIST OH YEEEAAAAAAAH
posted by mightygodking at 11:09 AM on August 1, 2010


THIS JUST IN: Good Christian area boys tempted by particularly shapely tree at local park!
posted by loquacious at 11:18 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, this thread is a veritable parade of Christian-bashing distortions and misconceptions. Did we read the same pages? Apparently confirmation bias and prejudice abounds on all sides.

For instance, how many took the time to realize that the questions are not the results and that the surveyers wrote the questions to sound provocatively, stereotypically, hard-line? Or how many just read the questions and assumed that Christian men cannot control themselves around girls wearing jeans and showing their calves?

How many think that the very fact of this survey means that Christian men put the responsibility for their behavior on the modesty of women? In other words who didn't really read the pages? Who has never apparently seen what kinds of things this population of young men are taught about their responsibility towards women in their churches. Apparently the same people who point to Ephesians 5 as evidence that Christians think men should dominate women. (wrong, BTW)

In our church, we teach men and women alike that lust means using others as objects to get what you want. Lust is not exclusively sexual. You can use someone as a means to any end and be guilty of lust. Men cannot avoid noticing an attractive woman because that's the way they're made, but it's the leer, the stare -- holding a womans image as an object for their pleasure -- where lust kicks in. I refuse to believe that young men cannot be taught that they are the boss of themselves, they they can relate to women as whole people and not objects.

As a father of three daughters, I hope they all find guys like that.
posted by cross_impact at 11:20 AM on August 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


d. z. wang, Theophile Escargot linked to the socimages graphs earlier, which contain a sampling of questions and results. So to answer your question, no, it doesn't appear that a lot of people are just jumping to conclusions.
posted by stagewhisper at 11:21 AM on August 1, 2010


i really don't get why temptation should be any kind of problem for anyone who believes in the spirit of the Lord's Prayer. In fact. this fear of temptation appears to be a lack of faith.
posted by yesster at 11:23 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


THIS JUST IN: Good Christian area boys tempted by particularly shapely tree at local park!

"We hope it leaves. It's not arborn again, its evil must be uprooted, and it's giving us wood. Fie, I spy a squirrel upon that most comely branch, beneath a hanging V of Spanish Moss, and he is hiding his nuts in the bosom of her shade."
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:25 AM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


From the site: "Something that is immodest is something that is unnaturally revealing"

I really hope whoever said this was born in a unitard or covered in a chitinous carapace.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:25 AM on August 1, 2010 [15 favorites]


From what I recall, it only took fifty years for the Islamic world to go from liberal, egalitarian society to "traditional", burka-enforcing jihadists.

First of all, not all Islamic countries are the same. Beirut, for example, used to be known as a fairly swinging place, "the Paris of the Mediterranean." Bahrain is essentially Las Vegas, where Saudis go to let off steam.

But fifty years ago, Afghanistan was pretty much exactly the same as it is now. Most places were 1000 times worse than they are now. I don't know where you got this myth that "the Islamic world" used to be a "liberal, egalitarian society."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:27 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, I know Beirut is not a country.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:28 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm able to access the site at the moment, and I have to say I'm amused by a lot of the comments. For the Agree/Disagree Statement "Exposing the chest below the collarbone, even without cleavage, is immodest," here are the first batch of responses:
There is no line to chest immodesty. However, it shouldn't be "How close can I get without being immodest?" It should be "How can I glorify Christ and build up my brothers in Him?"

A tough one. What is the rest of the wardrobe? Is it a spagehtti strap shirt? A little collarbone is OK, but there's certainly a point where, even though cleavage isn't being shown the shirt could be immodest.

Immodesty has to start somewhere, we should not be trying to walk the line, but flee from it.

It's once the cleavage shows up that it really begins to be a problem - but do leave at least a small margin for error.


As a man, I don't really see how anyone could really defend this position. Never once in my long career of being in a locker room and hearing lewd talk have I ever heard a man say "DUDE! DID YOU SEE HER COLLAR BONE!?!? AND THE TWO INCHES OF SKIN BENEATH IT?!"

It depends on the person, really: How high on the chest the breasts are, etc.

I agree mildly--let me explain. The more skin that is exposed the more risk of being a stumbling block to a brother. And another caution is that if you have a dress that has a neck that comes down past the collar bone (I have seen it especially on those that have squarish necks) you have much more of a chance when you bend over of exposing yourself. (and don't kid yourself by saying "I won't bend over") Most often from the dresses that I have seen that expose the chest bellow the collar bone are immodest if you bend over (cleavage or worse will be visible.) Thus I believe that it is generally immodest to wear a dress that exposes below the collarbone. Does this make sense? I do not think that it is necessarily immodest for me to see your collarbone, but almost all dresses that exposes your collar bone will be immodest.

I think that it draws attention to the chest, even if it doesn't reveal anything bad.

Personally, I've never had a problem with this. My concern is that the breasts be completely covered, in all reasonable postures. Just don't make it an ambition to push the neckline as low as possible.

I think girls can expose their upper chest without being immodest. As long as it is without cleavage.

This alone need not necessarily be immodest, but if a lot more is exposed elsewhere, it could perhaps contribute to an overall immodest appearance.
posted by taz at 11:31 AM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


From the responsibilities of modesty-Part One: "In fact, the Bible warns us that if our eyes are causing us to offend, it would be better to pluck it out than to allow it to lead us astray. Now you girls don’t want that to happen… Please?"
posted by Xurando at 11:31 AM on August 1, 2010


Metafilter: don't kid yourself by saying "I won't bend over"
posted by taz at 11:32 AM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Modest dress is important: if you're able to see the firmness of boy's beliefs, next thing you know you're polling them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:34 AM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


this led me to google the phrase "calves porn" and now I'm sorry I did. These boys are on to something.
posted by warbaby at 11:35 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Guilt is the best aphrodisiac.
posted by gallois at 11:35 AM on August 1, 2010


There is no line to chest immodesty. However, it shouldn't be "How close can I get without being immodest?" It should be "How can I glorify Christ and build up my brothers in Him?"

My grandfather, a retired pastor, does this all the time. No matter the topic, it will somehow be brought around to Christ.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:35 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


In our church, we teach men and women alike that lust means using others as objects to get what you want.

posted by cross_impact at 2:20 PM on August 1


Oh, you guys. Borrow a bit from the collection plate next Sunday and get yourselves a good dictionary.
posted by Decani at 11:39 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


I really hope whoever said this was born in a unitard or covered in a chitinous carapace

For some, even this is this is no protection against the beast of lust.

Personally, and as someone brought up as a conservative Christian, I don't see a problem with having a dialogue within religious communities over what 'modesty' means - I'm optimistic enough to believe that talking about these things helps people get perspective and recognize craziness and double standards. It would have been interesting to poll women to see their views on the matter as well. Hopefully something like that will follow.
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:40 AM on August 1, 2010


If I had that kind of a self-loathing mindfuck going on, I would have a really hard time being anything other than hateful to homosexuals (including myself.) Plus, if you're in that position and attracted to another person, you're going to hate them for making you feel that way and making you a bad person, which would seem like an openly hostile act. What a horrible circle of shame that must be.

Yeah, that was my entire adolescence summed up in a couple of sentences.
posted by blucevalo at 11:41 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


74.9% - three out of four - agree or strongly agree that "The way a girl walks can be a stumbling block."

Unless the kids today have developed some spicy new form of locomotion of which I'm unaware, these poll respondents seriously need to masturbate more frequently.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:45 AM on August 1, 2010


But fifty years ago, Afghanistan was pretty much exactly the same as it is now. Most places were 1000 times worse than they are now. I don't know where you got this myth that "the Islamic world" used to be a "liberal, egalitarian society."

Not true. Afghanistan was closer to what we in the West would consider typical standards of social and personal liberty in 1920 than it is now. So was Iraq. So was Egypt. So were some other nations that are now in the thrall of Wahhabist or other extreme orthodoxies.
posted by blucevalo at 11:45 AM on August 1, 2010 [19 favorites]


Always honor your parents above the results of the survey. (Ephesians 6:1-3)

A laudable sentiment Paul, and how handy that you happened to mention surveys in the Bible!
posted by djgh at 11:57 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait: Minch Minchin, Josh Hottenstein, Silas Blodgett, Levi Naumu, Ezekial Willcox, Levi Jungling?

I'm totally naming my next Dogs in the Vineyard character Silas Blodgett.
posted by EarBucket at 11:58 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


"When I’m tempted because of you I become that much more accepting of the perversions in the world. When you remain pure and modest, my life is made so much easier."

Gaaaah, that quote is just creepy.

So apparently now I'm not only superdelicious but my superdeliciousness causes you to accept additional perversions in the world? Who knew these clingy pants could make you start believing that homosexuals are people too, and that living together before marriage is ok and all that. These are some POWERFUL PANTS I've got on...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:59 AM on August 1, 2010 [31 favorites]


stage whisper, Thanks, I missed that. Eh...okay, some of those are a bit odd. Wearing the purse across the chest, for example---that's a fairly common tactic to make it harder to snatch.

It's interestingly different how these people think of indecent thoughts as inherently sinful rather than, say, disrespectful to their object or to the occasion and environment where they come. I would argue, for example, that wearing a shirt with printing across the breasts invites me to read the printing, even if that does require looking at the woman's chest.
posted by d. z. wang at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2010


I remember these attitudes being presented while I was growing up in the church, though it never reached the extreme end of the spectrum. I don't really recall any of the biblical basis for it, though I'm sure there was something about believers doing their best not to tempt their brothers and sisters in Christ into sin. Looking at it now, it's pretty easy to see how misogynous it all is.

Part of the problem is that women are almost always viewed as non-sexual, unless it's a "fallen woman" playing the role of the temptress. Resisting sexual sin is presented as a male issue. The man is usually viewed as the active party, with the sole responsibility for restraint. The woman is to always be on guard against male sexual aggression, because it's harder for a man to resist such temptation. The prevailing attitude in most churches seems to be that any woman with sexual desires is basically a whore.

This survey itself is fascinating and I'd love to see a broader sampling, not just those self-selected responses. I think this type of survey attracts a more conservative worldview than is actually present in the broad spectrum of churchgoers, but it's also my experience that these types are more likely to be in active leadership roles in the church and are the ones shaping the dialog. A youth pastor isn't going to keep his job if he tells kids that it's theologically okay to swear or masturbate, and this type of repressive worldview is pretty easily perpetuated.

Young churchgoers are taught that sexual attraction and desires are innately shameful and sinful. When a woman's appearance becomes a "stumbling block" that leads to sin, it isn't very hard to extrapolate a victim-shaming perspective from responses like those found in the survey. When self-restraint isn't enough to keep one from sin it's easy to shift blame to the culture or individuals, which in this case is pretty much every woman everywhere. The shame and guilt builds, because as Jimmy Carter reminded us, what man can keep from lusting in his heart? So instead of a healthy understanding of sexuality, anything that leads to impure thoughts is demonized. If you're a woman who provokes desires in men, you can't be celebrated for your beauty, you become part of the problem. The male's shame of sinfulness is transferred to the woman for not doing more to prevent it. It's another symptom of widespread misogyny in the church, though the degree will admittedly vary widely depending on the congregation. If modesty is emphasized, it's always more strictly applied to the woman. I don't think you'll find many church leaders who tell men to cover up while swimming and not wear tight jeans.

TheophileEscargot's link has some good examples. Not included: over 50% disagree that "It is okay for girls to wear tighter and/or more revealing clothes if they are working out." Even one of the responders that agrees with the statement says: "Girls should avoid working out around guys as much as possible." There are unequivocal double standards in play here.

Anyway, tl;dr version: Good post. I wish there was more discussion than prescription in the church today so that the widespread negative perception of Christians wouldn't be so easily reinforced.
posted by kyleg at 12:17 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some of these text responses are comedy gold.

Agree/Disagree: Bending over so that cleavage is visible down the front of the shirt or dress is a stumbling block.

"A huge stumbling block. When I was in 6th grade, before I was Christian, we would drop quarters on the floor to get girls to bend over so we could look down their shirts. Be modest - don't let us see cleavage ever."


Yes, girls, be careful to wear high-collared shirts so that when boys try to trick you into showing cleavage, you've shielded them from temptation.

However, there are some males that haven't fallen into the women-as-temptresses trap. I like how he places the responsibility on men looking, rather than women showing.

"This is tough for guys at times, as we know it is not meant, but it is also important that we guard our minds and avert our eyes."
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:18 PM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


From a survey response:

Promotes lust and is damaging to my thought life.

wow.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:23 PM on August 1, 2010


I came of age during one of those very brief periods in the history of western civilization where tight, revealing women's clothes fell out of fashion, a.k.a. the Grunge period of the early 90s, and I think it actually shaped my idea of "sexy" going forward. So I was afraid I might half-agree with these people.

But, no, this has nothing to do with good taste. These people are just crazy. There aren't a lot of religious fundamentalists where I'm from, so it's always shocking whenever I come into contact with them.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 12:27 PM on August 1, 2010


My current favorite comment:
If you don't have a dad or brother to ask about the propriety of specific outfits or articles, try to find a brother in Christ who you can ask. As helpful as surveys and things like this can be, they can't ever answer a question like "Does THIS pattern draw too much attention to my chest?" I'm not really sure what kind of criteria you should put on this kind of surrogate male family member (except that they should definitely be "aware" of girls, and understand and appreciate what you're trying to do), so you'll have to think through what would be appropriate, and what you would be most comfortable with, yourself. I don't think it should be too hard to find someone willing to help you in this way. I know for sure that I would be perfectly happy (not to mention thrilled that a girl was taking this stuff into consideration) to help someone in this manner.
posted by taz at 12:30 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


My thought life is so damn perverted.
posted by blucevalo at 12:37 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, so if Christians were really serious about modesty why wouldn't they be protesting the clothing stores that only sell immodest clothes for women instead of blaming the girls themselves.

As a woman who has never liked showing a lot of skin and who is very tall and long legged, it's almost impossible to buy a pair of women's shorts or skirt that doesn't look completely trashy on me. I regularly buy guys shorts just to prevent showing off my ass. Given the clothing choices available to girls at your average store I'd say it would be a miracle to find one that managed to dress modestly at all, regardless of her personal preference.
posted by threeturtles at 12:38 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you don't have a dad or brother to ask about the propriety of specific outfits or articles, try to find a brother in Christ who you can ask.

Wow, "brother in Christ" ..... must be the same kind of "brother" that Christ saw in John the son of Zebedee and that David saw in Jonathan .....
posted by blucevalo at 12:40 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suggest button fly jeans for minimization of any "stumbling blocks."



Oh, wait. That's not what they meant, huh?
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:41 PM on August 1, 2010


Two monks were once traveling together down a muddy road.
A heavy rain was falling. Coming around the bend,
they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash,
unable to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl," said the first monk. Lifting her
in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

The second monk did not speak again until that night
when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer
could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females,"
he said. "It is dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," the first monk said.
"Are you still carrying her?"

posted by PlusDistance at 12:48 PM on August 1, 2010 [51 favorites]


This site is a goldmine for people who wish to market fetish porn to the recovering-fundie market.
posted by box at 12:54 PM on August 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


I hardly even know how to respond to this. I mean, besides with "fuck that."

Precisely the impulse the teen boys are fighting against.
posted by namespan at 1:02 PM on August 1, 2010


I can't be a stumbling block right now because my fishnets and good bras are in the wash. BUT SOON.
posted by NoraReed at 1:04 PM on August 1, 2010 [21 favorites]


I'm not usually big on guilt, but reading this makes me want to roleplay or something. Not about shaming, but about making things erotic with immensely slower pacing. A slow reveal of the calf, or the collarbone. Leaving clothes on for as long as possible.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:04 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's always interesting to see these kinds of letters, these kinds of essays, and watch how they're perceived by those outside of the... hmm. Real True Christian subculture? That phrase, coined by Slacktivist, is still probably the best one for describing the world that these things really take root in.

Put simply, mainstream American Christian culture has a profoundly fucked up approach to human sexuality, sensuality, and sexual identity.* I say this as someone who grew up in a chain of Charismatic, Baptist, Evangelical, Nondenominational, and Assemblies of God churches. My experiences are not universal, but in the years since then I've grown confident enough to say that they are definitely representative. They may not be what everyone who is a Christian believes, but if you're a 15 year old youth group member, odds are, you're going to be on the receiving end of the ideas presented in the letter above.

A few of moments from my own history stand out.

My first puppy-love girlfriend, way back in the dim recesses of time. She had a crush on me, I had a crush on her... her parents started reading Bob Jones essays, and the rest is history. They forced her to sign a vow, before God, that she would 'protect her heart,' and that she would not see me without a chaperone again. We were both thirteen, and I didn't really see too much of her after that.

A decade later, standing in a Starbucks with a twenty-something female friend who was herself the head of our church's bible study group for teenage girls. While we were waiting for lattes, a young woman walked in wearing something that my friend thought was provocative. Shorts too short, maybe? I'm not sure, to be honest. She glared at the girl and said to me, "I'm glad none of my girls look slutty, like her." It occurred to me, then and there, that quite a few girls in that Bible study might be less concerned about 'modesty' than afraid of being called sluts by a woman they looked up to.

Around the same time, a large "rally" style event that the church had promoted as "A no-holds-barred" conversation about sex and purity. The speaker kicked things off by reading out questions that had been submitted before the event: "Is oral sex a sin?" The speaker turned, and gave a comedic "Oh, come on!" look to the crowd, and announced, "If you have to ask, you know the answer to that one." The reason why was never explained: it was just implied (hell, stated) that anyone asking such questions was trying to justify self-evidently sinful behavior.

These snapshots don't say much in and of themselves, but they're the reality of 'Sexuality' in the circles that produce materials like the letter that kicked off this post. Boys are made to despise the fact that they're sexual beings -- sexual attraction outside of marriage (not even sexual activity, but sexual feelings) is something to be pushed away, sublimated, washed away by hours of prayer, and so on. Girls are made to despise the fact that they have breasts, hips, lips -- anything that could be 'sensual' is a source of consternation for someone who's internalized the messages that are sent. A hip, chinos-and-sandals-wearing youth pastor will make a big deal of talking about how wonderful sex is ("With my hot wife!") but there is no getting around the fact that the inherently sexual nature of a healthy human being is treated as something to tamp down, to wash away, to lock up like a contagion until the magical day that vows are spoken and then everything is Blessed By God.

The letter that kicked off this post isn't about women, not really. It's not about their actions, their dress, their movements, or their bodies. It's a letter about 1600 young men. 1600 young men who go to youth group every Wednesday and see Jenny in that really cute girl-cut Audio Adrenaline T-shirt, carrying her Bible and reaching up to grab something off the shelf and... and then suddenly it's "Oh God I'm Sorry, I Shouldn't Be Thinking Those Kinds Of Thoughts About Jenny! God, why can't I stop thinking about Jenny's body? If only Jenny wouldn't dress like that, this would be easier. So much easier!"

These young men really have gone out on a limb, by the standards of their community: they have admitted that there is a really, really large list of innocuous things they can be turned on by. They don't want to be, because they know that's bad, it's sinful, and oh, if only they could stop waking up thinking about Jenny or Nicole or...

You get the idea.

So they're going out on a limb and asking women -- desperately! humbly! -- to please stop showing so much shoulder, or calf, or ankle, or wearing such bold lipstick, or having such tight jeans, or jogging in front of the office, or stretching, or doing anything that makes boys think about those lovely hips, and... and... where were we? Something about hips? They're in a position where they cannot accept that it is normal, and even pretty healthy for a teenage boy to experience intense sexual attraction to anything shapelier than a streetlamp. Instead of learning how to be respectful and cope with constant boners until their hormones get under control, they have to sublimate, sublimate, sublimate and ask that girls stop being, well, so female.

To me, it's depressing to watch how girls emerge from that culture and how boys emerge from it, too. All the talk in the world about how "Sex is a beautiful and wonderful and awesome thing between a married man and woman" aren't a whit of help to someone figuring out that sexuality is part of who they are, not just an act that they perform.

*(This is not to say that there aren't good, healthy views that exist inside of the Church, or that 'Christians are fucked up' on an individual personal basis. Like Muslims, atheists, Jews, and so on, it's too broad and diverse of a group to pigeonhole that way. Those of you who read this and say, 'But that is not what I believe!' -- I commend you and encourage you to keep fighting the good fight.)
posted by verb at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2010 [100 favorites]


how many took the time to realize that the questions are not the results and that the surveyers wrote the questions to sound provocatively, stereotypically, hard-line?

But why write a bunch of completely out-there questions that couldn't possibly reflect the reality of your respondents? Wouldn't that be a waste of time? Clearly the questions used must have been chosen for a reason.

And if they were written to sound "provocatively hard-line", wouldn't the effect be to skew the results? For instance the famous Carl Rove push-poll against John McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries: "Would you still vote for John McCain if you knew he had a biracial child out of wedlock?" Which plants the idea in the minds of the respondents; the goal of that poll wasn't to find out voters' opinions on race, marriage, or the intersection of morals and politics. It was to plant a useful lie in the minds of the voters. So, to the extent that these questions don't reflect the spectrum of ideas within Evangelical Christianity, you have to wonder: what is the motivation, here? What are we trying to put into the minds of Ben Dover and Silas Blodgett?
posted by Sara C. at 1:18 PM on August 1, 2010


Jesus Christ... I'm glad I lost the fear of a literal hell at ~age 12.

I can't even imagine how an adult functions with the omnipresent fear of eternal torture hanging over every action.
posted by codacorolla at 1:24 PM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: we should not be trying to walk the line, but flee from it.
posted by Splunge at 1:30 PM on August 1, 2010


This incredibly foolish idea that women are the originators of evil (Satan is a mere prop, in the story at all only as a male to deny women the agency men find more threatening than anything else In Heaven or on Earth) is present at the creation of each of the Abrahamic religions, and may ultimately destroy them all, in my opinion.

Blaming young girls as much as this nonsense does looks like kind of a new wrinkle, though, and strikes me as the abstinent Christian counterpart to the endemic pedophilia of the wider society more than anything else.

On the other hand, Lady Gaga, whose act can be seen as cycles of offering her pure and perfect body up to the imposition of bizarre and invasive costumes and indignities, including dousings with paint (not quite so precious fluids of another kind, if you will), from which she emerges pure and pristine once again, and her ascendance as an icon of hook-up culture, ought to make it clear to us that for secular girls, adolescence and young adulthood have become a period of sexual servitude, wherein they offer young men oral sex to pacify them, and deflect them as much as possible from demanding other, more consequential penetrations, perhaps by force, and from which they dream of emerging as unscathed as their dear (un)martyred Lady.

To me, that's even worse than what the Christians are doing.
posted by jamjam at 1:44 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


As someone who was once a teenage Christian boy, I can tell you that I had some opinions on what I wanted to see guys wearing, too. Yowsa.
posted by koeselitz at 1:47 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


To me, that's even worse than what the Christians are doing.

Only if you assume that sex is merely something that women "give" to men rather than enjoying on our own terms.
posted by Sara C. at 1:49 PM on August 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


On the other hand, Lady Gaga, whose act can be seen as...

You and I read Lady Gaga very very differently. Your take just seems to be another "how to please not be female" complaint. There's no way to win when people think that it's okay to constantly judge how other people look with an eye towards blaming them for whatever happens in the rest of their lives. Being a teenager is horrible enough in a lot of ways without feeling like you can't catch a break because someone saw your shoulder and it's your fault they've got a boner that makes them feel weird in a way that they can't decently process.
posted by jessamyn at 1:50 PM on August 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


On the other hand, Lady Gaga, whose act can be seen as cycles of offering her pure and perfect body up to the imposition of bizarre and invasive costumes and indignities,

What "pure" and "perfect" body? I find her attractive, but many people cattily and crudely denounce her for not fitting the Hollywood ideal - not to mention the many jokes about her actually being herm/trans/etc. How are her costumes "invasive?" What "indignities" does she suffer? She seems to be quite in control of her own image.

[Lady Gaga's] ascendance as an icon of hook-up culture

[citation needed]

Lady Gaga was famous for her statement a few months that she was celibate and had better things to do than hook up with guys. Further, while she has some songs about having sex, she also has songs that are odes to gay friends, tales of revenge, and what could be charitably described as general nonsense.

ought to make it clear to us that for secular girls, adolescence and young adulthood have become a period of sexual servitude, wherein they offer young men oral sex to pacify them, and deflect them as much as possible from demanding other, more consequential penetrations, perhaps by force, and from which they dream of emerging as unscathed as their dear (un)martyred Lady.

What...the...hell? How on earth is this connected to Lady Gaga? Where are you getting this?
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:51 PM on August 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


MetaFilter: On the other hand, Lady Gaga
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 1:53 PM on August 1, 2010 [36 favorites]


The few screens I saw before the server died made it appear that about half of the respondents were home schoolers. It would be interesting to mine this dataset for clothing morality clusters.
posted by cgk at 1:55 PM on August 1, 2010


cgk - I was also wondering about the not insignificant subset of respondents who are not teenagers, and whether they correlate to the insanely puritanical end of the spectrum or whether it's the younger kids (raised completely within Religious Right backlash culture) who are more fanatical than their more liberal older counterparts (who'd have been of the "burn your Nirvana albums" generation).
posted by Sara C. at 2:04 PM on August 1, 2010


The results of the Open Questions portion of the survey deserve more attention. Here are some of the responses to the very last question of the survey: As a guy, what is your responsibility in this area? What is your role in guarding your eyes and mind (as opposed to the women's role of dressing modestly)?

Age 23 - The ultimate responsibility is absolutely my own. No matter how a woman is dressed, it is my responsibility to treat both her and myself with respect and to honor Christ with all my actions. If I ever feel that I might not be able to control myself or my thoughts, it's my responsibility to leave the situation. Guys who blame women for their own bad behavior are a major problem. Furthermore, it's my responsibility to dress and act modestly as well; women have their own God-given sexuality as well, and if I ask them to help me control my libido, I am honor-bound to do the same to help my sisters in Christ.

Age 19 - My responsibility is to think of each and every girl as a person and not an object. When I interact with a girl, I must respond to her for who she is and not for what her body is.

Age 17 - My responsibility would be to always remember than women are NOT a collection of body parts. I should never dishonor or degrade them by thinking lustfully about them in any way, and I should be on guard to defend them from others doing the same thing.

Age 18 - First, I should be fighting as hard as I can to think of a girl as a person and a daughter of God, rather than a body for me to use. I should recognize that this girl before me is truly a person with thoughts, needs, hurts, joys, sorrows, and laughter. I should realize that she is truly made in God's image and is under his reign. I must realize who this girl is. She is not some body or shape to serve my foul pleasure of the moment; rather she is in truth a daughter of God. She is His special creation and handiwork. She is the one for whom Jesus bore pain and suffering and death on the Cross. She is in the kingdom of God, just as I am. I could go on forever: She is a princess; a loving child of God; the one for whom He died; His beloved creation; His gift to man; His gift of beauty to the world. I ought to be very frightened to think of her as an object of my lust. Look! Who is her protector? Who is her guardian that I will have to reckon with? None other than God Almighty! Her Father is my Savior! If I will but dwell on the understanding of who I am tempted to lust after, I should cower in my tracks and praise God for His mercy.
posted by inconsequentialist at 2:09 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


cgk - I was also wondering about the not insignificant subset of respondents who are not teenagers, and whether they correlate to the insanely puritanical end of the spectrum or whether it's the younger kids (raised completely within Religious Right backlash culture) who are more fanatical than their more liberal older counterparts (who'd have been of the "burn your Nirvana albums" generation).
Inside the culture that we're talking about, it can actually feel really, really good to do something like this. It feels bold, and honest, and counter-culture edgy. My theory is that everyone -- everyone -- wants to believe in something, to be passionate about something, to rail against the powers that be and set themselves apart from the culture at large. Some kids go hipster, others go punk, others strive to succeed in academics (believing that 'mediocrity' is the defining characteristic of the culture at large). One of the smartest things that the RTC culture has done is branding regressive mores as "X-Treme."

I actually still have a shirt that a friend made when we were all part of the church. It was tongue-in-cheek, and had the words NEVER TOUCH ANYONE printed on the front. He liked to call it his 'Extreme Abstinence' T-shirt.
posted by verb at 2:10 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


How are her costumes "invasive?" What "indignities" does she suffer?

You really need to watch the videos a little more closely ... or, at all ... before you start to condemn an opinion.

"What "indignities" does she suffer?" Does prison rape count as an indignity?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:13 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is why so many people think Christians (well, some of them, anyway -- these ones, for example) are assholes.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 2:13 PM on August 1, 2010


"She is not some body or shape to serve my foul pleasure of the moment; rather she is in truth a daughter of God."
Even in short snippets, the self-loathing that I wrote of earlier comes through. It's not enough to say, "Hey, I shouldn't be objectifying them," or "Hey, they're people who deserve to be treated with respect." Sexual attraction is about forcing someone to serve your foul pleasure. It's taking a beautiful, angelic princess created by God and tainting them.

Once you're married, that foul pleasure becomes beautiful and even obligatory. But for now, young lad... you just keep those dark, wicked pervasions to yourself. Push them deep down, and ask God to cleanse you, and go pray for forgiveness. Hold the lid down tight while that water boils, son, and you'll be alllllll right...
posted by verb at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Both me and the crazy fundies hate Lady GaGa......well, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
posted by jonmc at 2:20 PM on August 1, 2010


Pervasions? Yes. Pervasions. I'm going to stick with that one.
posted by verb at 2:21 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


"When I’m tempted because of you I become that much more accepting of the perversions in the world. When you remain pure and modest, my life is made so much easier."

Everyone knows that when young people are getting some they become more inclined to fall out of line. Which is why I personally think that religions and military institutions are so interested in controlling sexuality. Has nothing to do with god or purity, it's about controlling all that youthful energy for your own purposes.
posted by fshgrl at 2:55 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


You really need to watch the videos a little more closely ... or, at all ... before you start to condemn an opinion.

"What "indignities" does she suffer?" Does prison rape count as an indignity?


Weak sauce, especially since jamjam's argument appeared to tilt more in the direction that somehow Lady Gaga's music was a Pied Piper leading girls to becoming passive sexual objects for men's gratification. The prison stuff in that video was clearly a subversion of "women in prison" movies (minus many of the usual "payoffs" of those movies) and a joke about the rumors of her (nonexistent) penis. I don't see how the "Telephone" video could lead to jamjam's interpretation of her influence.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:55 PM on August 1, 2010


This survey is making me think about all the subtle sexy way women can dress that turns me on thus making me think sinful thoughts and objectify women!
posted by fuq at 2:56 PM on August 1, 2010


On the other hand, Lady Gaga, whose act can be seen as...

You and I read Lady Gaga very very differently. Your take just seems to be another "how to please not be female" complaint. There's no way to win when people think that it's okay to constantly judge how other people look with an eye towards blaming them for whatever happens in the rest of their lives. Being a teenager is horrible enough in a lot of ways without feeling like you can't catch a break because someone saw your shoulder and it's your fault they've got a boner that makes them feel weird in a way that they can't decently process.

You might have gotten something out of reading klang's excellent link as you deleted his FPP about Lady Gaga, then (I thought it was a good post, but I also thought even-handedness required its deletion):

What’s going on here? Women of my generation — I have a Gaga-savvy daughter home for the summer from her first year of college — have been scratching our heads. When we hear our daughters tell us that in between taking A.P. Statistics and fronting your own band you may be expected to perform a few oral sexual feats, we can’t believe it. Some critics of “hook-up culture” have suggested, more or less moralistically, that the problem is that all this casual sex is going to mess with girls’ heads. But whatever you think of casual sex, it’s not new. What’s mind-boggling is how girls are able to understand engaging in it, especially when it’s unidirectional, as a form of power.

The version of this article on the NYT site at the time of klang's post went on to describe girls getting all dolled up and going out and performing all this oral sex without getting any satisfaction in return, and Nancy Bauer's flabbergasted amazement at this lack of reciprocation.

(Klang, if you're reading this, am I dreaming that the article was different?)

I must say, however, that I see your "take" on my characterization of Lady Gaga-- determinedly charitably-- as a simple failure of reading comprehension.
posted by jamjam at 2:57 PM on August 1, 2010


I'm kind of fascinated with the religious right's relationship with girls and women who play sports. On the one hand, athleticism is often considered the pinnacle of achievement (won the race, kept the faith and all that), and supposedly a tool to keep lust at bay. On the other hand, well-developed calves are viewed with suspicion and playing sports makes you a lesbian. Where did all this stuff come from?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:09 PM on August 1, 2010


I refuse to fall for the NYT "The Current Generation Of College Kids Invented Sex" trend piece ruse. Way way way too off topic for me, sorry.
posted by Sara C. at 3:13 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems like there's a well-intentioned attempt in this ideology to promote the idea that "Hey dude, women are people too! Stop treating them as anything less than human" but then underneath that there's that idea is followed up with the notion that "The only way to stop degrading women is to ignore any sexual feelings you might have. It's not your actions that oppress women, it's your dirty dirty sexual thoughts."

So on one hand, I can admire them saying "HEY! Respect women, they are not here for you to sexually conquer them" (even though they're very specific that this only applies to Christian women...) but they seem to have no interest in cultivating a healthy sexual outlook, one that recognizes that sexual feelings are natural and that lust is just fine as long as you still recognize the person you're lusting after is, and always will be, a human being and not some kind of sex doll.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 3:21 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I... what? Lady Gaga? Hookup culture? How old are you?
posted by codacorolla at 3:22 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think I must have missed a few comments. When the hell did lady gaga get introduced? I'm worried that this might become a new variation of godwins law.

Also, 43.1% home-school kids. Wow.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 3:47 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thread that directly preceded this is about a Christian who went to jail for an act of conscience.

The odds that a Unitarian Universalist seminary student is a Christian are very slim. (And I used to be a UU Christian.)
posted by Jahaza at 3:48 PM on August 1, 2010


I can admire them saying "HEY! Respect women, they are not here for you to sexually conquer them" (even though they're very specific that this only applies to Christian women...)

One thing I noticed was how many of them started out by saying, "It's important to remember that women are human beings and should be respected" and finished by saying "Christian women are creatures of God who should not be defiled by dirty sinful thoughts". There's a somewhat subtle distinction there, and I find it fascinating the way the literature (because that's what this is, the regurgitation of literature) clothes "respect women because they are uniquely special in God's eyes" in quasi-feminist language. It sounds thoughtful and intelligent until you actually parse the sentences.
posted by Sara C. at 4:01 PM on August 1, 2010


Put simply, mainstream American Christian culture has a profoundly fucked up approach to human sexuality, sensuality, and sexual identity.*

I have to disagree with you. The entire Judeo-Christian religion is founded on on a fucked-up approach to human sexuality.

Garden of Eden. Eve sins, tempts Adam to sin, and then both are embarrassed by their nakedness.

In Orthodox Jewish law, married people are only allowed to have sex 2 weeks out of four-- not during her period and not for a week after because she is unclean. Also sex may only occur through a hole in a sheet.

Adulterers are stoned to death.

The Catholic myth surrounding Mary is particularly revealing. Jesus must be born to a virgin rather than through icky sex.

The early church flogs and even burns adulterers.

Even today, over 50 years after it was introduced, the birth control Pill is still prohibited by the Catholic church even for married folk who wish to limit their family for health or financial reasons. In the Catholic church the only reason to have sex is to have babies.

Some critics of “hook-up culture” have suggested, more or less moralistically, that the problem is that all this casual sex is going to mess with girls’ heads. But whatever you think of casual sex, it’s not new. What’s mind-boggling is how girls are able to understand engaging in it, especially when it’s unidirectional, as a form of power.

And this is different from previous generations how? You don't think I knew all about the power of the blow job as a girl in the 70's?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:16 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Put simply, mainstream American Christian culture has a profoundly fucked up approach to human sexuality, sensuality, and sexual identity.*

I have to disagree with you. The entire Judeo-Christian religion is founded on on a fucked-up approach to human sexuality.
Please note the difference between 'has' and 'is founded on' -- I'm less interested in dissecting the historic sins of Yahwehism than looking at the here and now. That doesn't mean the history isn't interesting, but I'm trying to draw a clear line between people who have moved past that, and people who have "doubled down" on the unhealthy sexuality.
posted by verb at 4:23 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also sex may only occur through a hole in a sheet.

Wut.

Please try to actually know what you're talking about before going off.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:30 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


The secret purpose of clothing is not to protect us from sexual arousal, it is to increase their effect when they do occur. Sexual interest has a certain minimum level; if you shield yourself from thinking about or experiencing sex, the level of arousal that occurs when you do experience it is more profound. This is one of the reasons there are so many reports about "moral" leaders like Mark Foley turning out to have highly amusing secret lives.

If we all walked around naked all the time, we would be a lot less sexually-attenuated than we are now. There would be a very small increase in what we might call the background arousal state, but the peaks, so to speak, would be shallower. (Considering the number of people one would perhaps not wish to see naked, it might actually be a net decrease.)
posted by JHarris at 4:31 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


sigh

This thread is terrible in all the predictable MeFi LOLXIANS ways. verb's comment is pretty much the only one I've seen that even comes close do doing this subject justice.

Why? Because criticizing something like this from the perspective that one should be able to have consensual sex with whomever one wants, whenever one wants, isn't terribly interesting. If that's your sexual ethos, anything which suggests that it might not actually be okay to have sex with anyone you please is bound to look draconian and impossibly backward.

News flash! Christian sexual ethics are not exactly in line with the broader culture! Film at 11!

Can we get more unhelpful?

No, what's interesting about this is how it doesn't even fit with any serious version of Christian sexual ethics. The fact that the survey doesn't make sense from a secular liberal perspective isn't interesting as the fact that it doesn't make sense from a Christian perspective either.

Let's pick this apart.

For starters, the whole "Rebelution" concept is misguided. One of the core principles of Christian ethics is that moral norms come not from one's peers or from the culture but from God via community institutions, i.e. the family and the church. Yet somehow, the founders of this organization have decided that the best way to get teenagers to be serious about sexual purity is... positive peer pressure divorced from any traditional social structure? Instead of, you know, the people who according to this account of morality are supposed to communicate positive sexual virtues to children, i.e. the parents and especially the father. Hell we aren't even referencing other authority figures like priests/elders/pastors/whatever. The church has systems and institutions for communicating virtue to the young through such people. But no, the idea here is that cultural change and moral improvement in Christian youth is best caused by astroturfing a ground-up change based in the very demographic that is most likely to not get it. Riddle me that.

Second, Christian ethics in its most enduring form is based on virtue ethics. To paraphrase a Protestant theologian, we are not evil because we do evil, we do evil because we are evil. If this doesn't fly in the face of the dominant culture, I don't know what does, but that's the basic idea. The focus, then, is not on modifying behavior, which is really a symptom of the underlying spiritual disease, but to change the very heart. Yet the entire focus here is on coming up with a list of things to do and not to do. This, as far as I can tell, amounts to tithing of mint and cumin when the real problem is that we no longer think about sexuality as rooted in community and touching every area of life. The problem, as conceived by Christianity, is that sex is something we treat casually, compartmentalize, and generally assume that we are free to do what we want. The Rebelution approach sort of gestures at that--and may indeed assume it--but the focus is on fixing the symptoms, not addressing the real issue. As such, it represents not the grace of the Gospel but the creation of more and more rules when we can't even keep the ones we've got already.

This is an example of the broader trend in mainstream evangelical Christianity of thinking that social organization and programming are the solution to community and moral problems. People aren't forming close friendships with others in church? Feeling left out when they join a new congregation? Start a small group program! People aren't meeting in each others' homes? Start a dinner party sign up! The community doesn't have enough for teenagers to do in the evenings? Youth group! The problem with this is that it's basically attempting to produce the accidents of a vibrant spiritual community via programming without actually creating the essence of a vibrant spiritual community. Christianity in all of its historical forms has always believed that spiritual and community development is centered around corporate worship and the means of grace, i.e. the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments (however many you think there are), and that if these things are done faithfully, they will naturally produce the sort of community that contemporary Christians want so badly. This is not how the world thinks things are supposed to work, but it what the church believes, and the Rebelution people are essentially ignoring the very thing their tradition believes makes sexual purity possible in the first place.

But even with those internal inconsistencies and irrationalities, these people do not deserve the criticism which has been leveled at them here. True, the way they want to work out their issues flies in the face of the assumptions of most MeFites, and to be sure, the twisting of these virtues into laws can be incredibly damaging, as MeFites like loquacious can testify. But take a closer look at what they believe before you call them the f*cking Taliban, for pity's sake. What we've got here is the assumption on a very fundamental level that sexuality is a complex, subtle, and powerful thing, that it is fundamentally an issue for the entire community to address as a whole, and that we are responsible for our actions, even when they affect other people in ways we do not necessarily want or even anticipate.

What is so wrong about that? If we were talking about universal health care or access to abortion, arguments for communal nature of morality would be very well represented. Why cannot the same principles be applied to sexuality? Granted, there are also some very different assumptions at play here, and the "Rebelution" people's internal inconsistencies transform what would merely be objectionable to most MeFites into something downright irrational. But can no credit be given for an honest and heartfelt attempt to work out one's ethics when some features of those ethics we hold in common?

Maybe that's too much to ask, but I really hope it isn't.
posted by valkyryn at 4:33 PM on August 1, 2010 [15 favorites]


"Also sex may only occur through a hole in a sheet."

If you believe that, you should just stop talking now. See Snopes for example.

In the Catholic church the only reason to have sex is to have babies.

This is not true. The Catholic Church teaches that sex has two purposes unitive and procreative.
posted by Jahaza at 4:33 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know what, though, valkyryn?

It's not about who gets to have sex with who, when, and under what conditions.

It's about basic respect for half of humanity.

It about how it's not the job of women to constantly police everything about ourselves all the time so as to "protect" men from sinful thoughts.

It's about how, when you get to the point where women wearing pants or showing their calves or walking in a certain way is Verboten because of the potential for male temptation, you're basically saying that women have no right to exist.

I don't really care whether Evangelical teenagers have sex or not. I care when an influential branch of my country's predominant religion practices misogyny to this degree.
posted by Sara C. at 5:04 PM on August 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


I care when an influential branch of my country's predominant religion practices misogyny to this degree.

Calling someone a misogynist who fundamentally disagrees with you about why constitutes "misogyny" isn't helpful or interesting. Until you're willing to see whether what they're doing makes sense on their own terms, conversation isn't really going to be possible.

Maybe you're okay with that, but I'm not, and I don't think you should be.
posted by valkyryn at 5:08 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you don't have a dad or brother to ask about the propriety of specific outfits or articles, try to find a brother in Christ who you can ask.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I never dreamed it could happen to me! There I was, coming in from a hard day of toiling in the fields, when Goodie Trixie, her Whores of Babylon barely covered by collar, overshirt, bodice, undershirt, chemise and protective undergarment stopped me by the well as I sought water.

"Oh, Brother Brock," she said to me with the tone of a strumpet lost to perdition, "It is known I have no brothers of which to ask, but could thou be mine brother in Christ and tell me...Does thou think my globes of shame are too sinfully uncovered?"

Just then, I heard a low voice behind me, "Brother Brock, I see thou art helping mine daughter assess just how sinful she is." It was none other than Goodie Trixie's mother, Goodie Cherry! "Mayhap you could use mine own devil's funbags to make your determination?"

SCORE!
posted by quakerjono at 5:09 PM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nowhere in the Bible does it say 'Thou shalt not rub one out'.
posted by bwg at 5:19 PM on August 1, 2010


What is it with cults (By cults I mean any religion) that have the need to enforce some level of self restriction, by making the object of attention be the one that needs to restrict itself, instead of just controling ones urges and desires. If your god says your not meant to touch it or oggle at it, then simply don't (leave that for us who happily will), don't force your mumbo jumbo reasons on the other person.
It's like dieting, don't touch what you shouldn't, you don't ban the food itself.. It's called SELF control.
posted by Merlin The Happy Pig at 5:22 PM on August 1, 2010


It's about how, when you get to the point where women wearing pants or showing their calves or walking in a certain way is Verboten because of the potential for male temptation, you're basically saying that women have no right to exist.

So you're telling us what it's about, but you didn't read it? Because it clearly says that most of the respondents did not agree with the statement "Skirts are more modest than pants (even loose fitting pants)." And now we've borked it again, but previously, my recollection is that the idea that showing calves was immodest was also not backed up by the survey respondents.
posted by Jahaza at 5:26 PM on August 1, 2010


How many think that the very fact of this survey means that Christian men put the responsibility for their behavior on the modesty of women?

**raises hand*** Oooh! oooh! Me! I do! Me!

Were I (still) a Christian teenage girl, I would not ever want to know that my jeans/t-shirts/shapely ankles peeking suggestively out of my socks were some sort of sexual/religious problem for some random dude.

Why? Because it's creepy. Because it implies that me, I, a person innocently walking through the world, am somehow the cause of their obsession, and not, in fact, their own hormone-fueled mind.

When a guy comes up to you with a detailed list of all your apparel choices/body movements that turn him on, as a prelude to some sort of religious discussion, unasked, do you know that does? Scares you to death and icks you out. Because it violates your right not to know what they're thinking, not to have to think about whatever sexual thoughts they are dealing with. It's coercing me, and any other woman, into policing some stranger's conflict with his gonads, and that? IS NOT MY JOB.

Not that I think there's anything unusual in obsessing over the body parts of those you're attracted to. Indeed--and I know this may be a shock to you--women do this too! Shall I tell you about the ways my knees went weak at the sight of Scott X in his sotight jeans in 10th grade? Or that I still remember Gothy Eric from 12th and the time he hung out with me while he smoked clove cigarettes so sexily I almost fainted from lust?

Yet, unlike these freaks, I never thought to blame Scott or Eric or anyone else for inspiring my wicked wicked (and they were) thoughts of what I'd like to do with them.

Because that would be both unfair and (in my opinion) un-Christian.

And so is this exercise in Taliban-flavored regulation of female dress and behavior.

In short: Keep it between you and God, dudes. Leave me the hell out of it.
posted by emjaybee at 5:27 PM on August 1, 2010 [17 favorites]


i dont think its a lolxtians thread, more of a lol americanxtians thread.


There is modest swim wear out there. Swimming is no excuse to disobey our LORD.

Only an american could say something like that.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:31 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread is terrible in all the predictable MeFi LOLXIANS ways. verb's comment is pretty much the only one I've seen that even comes close do doing this subject justice.
Thanks for the kind words - I wasn't sure whether my post would be seen as kind or condescending from someone on the other side of the religious fence, but it wasn't intended to be cutting. That said, I don't feel this thread can be considered LOLXIANS in any way, unless that simply means that Christians are involved and some people went 'LOL.' As you noted, this letter that sparked this post is terrible by your theological standards!

No one's made cutting comments about child-molesting priests, closeted ministers, the fact that God doesn't exist, all of the nastiness that usually derails a thread about religion. One person said that the sexual mores of Judeo-Christianity are unhealthy, but that's about as brutal as it got. By that standards, LOLHIPSTERS, LOLBRIGHTS, LOLMICROSOFT, and a hundred other common topics of discussion should be considered terrible.

Your post is really appreciated, because it sheds light on something that is often overlooked -- that there are radically different approaches to normalizing sexual behavior inside of the broad Christian faith, even if only one or two are seen in the circles most of us in Protestant North America associate with. Your critique of the "Form A Small Group" solution to community disconnection is an important one, and I can't say 'AMEN!' enough to your comments about sexual identity being something that is about identity and humaness as much as it is about the sexual act.

But --
...Criticizing something like this from the perspective that one should be able to have consensual sex with whomever one wants, whenever one wants, isn't terribly interesting. If that's your sexual ethos, anything which suggests that it might not actually be okay to have sex with anyone you please is bound to look draconian and impossibly backward.
That's where I think you've misread this. No one in the thread (OK, no one I've spotted so far) has said that these kids need to go get laid, or be less uptight and get some porn, or that they SHOULD in fact leer at women lecherously.

People have objected to two specific ideas:
  1. The idea that what you feel when you see an attractive girl is "sin" as opposed to "something you have to learn to deal with as a human being." Sexual feelings, sexual attraction, arousal, and the aesthetic appeal of other human bodies are baked into the human experience, and recognizing that they are not, in and of themselves, sinful is completely separate from believing that context-free consensual sex is morally acceptable.
  2. The idea that women should shoulder the burden of preventing mens' lustful thoughts. Although a number of the commenters on the original site insist that's not what they're advocating, the letter very clearly communicates to women, 'Here is a list of things that you do that tempt us to sin. Please, if you care about us, don't do these things around us.' Things as simple as wearing a comfortable shirt in the summer, stretching in the presence of a teenaged boy, and so on, are discussed. Although it's wrapped in endless discussions about respect and honor for women, it's impossible for readers not to see the deeply destructive parallels between this thinking and the rationalizations for Shiara law. That's not an attempt to be combative, just a note that the same explanations offered for this letter are the ones offered for forced veiling of women in fundamentalist Islamic regimes.
Those two points seem to be the ones that stand out, and I believe that you have a lot of common ground with those who are objecting to them. Hopefully, defensiveness about sweeping generalizations won't keep you from recognizing the common ground: I tried hard in my post to distinguish between 'Christian Pop Culture Sexuality' and the more complex and nuanced theologies you're talking about. While some here may object to those ideas on other grounds, that's not what has them all het up in this thread.
posted by verb at 5:33 PM on August 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


Please note the difference between 'has' and 'is founded on' -- I'm less interested in dissecting the historic sins of Yahwehism than looking at the here and now. That doesn't mean the history isn't interesting, but I'm trying to draw a clear line between people who have moved past that, and people who have "doubled down" on the unhealthy sexuality.

Please note as well that the vast majority of religious Jews now embrace egalitarianism and have therefore "moved past that" according to your perspective.

However, for some sects that transition has been slower than others. For example: my ketubah (wedding contract) is egalitarian. It allows my wife to initiate a Jewish divorce with me if she chooses, and is worded in such a way that we are referred to as equals, rather than she as a dependent, and me as a provider. There was never a question between us that our Ketubah would be egalitarian. Non-egalitarian language is more traditional, and still available to Conservative Jews. I am honestly not sure if Egalitarian ketubot are available to Orthodox couples.

These options have been available to Jewish couples in the less traditional sects for a while, but they were not when our grandparents were married. A relatively recent change.

As for this FPP I can only say that I'm personally thankful to have been raised in a home and a religious tradition that did not ingrain such poisonous attitudes about sex and sexuality.
posted by zarq at 5:34 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nowhere in the Bible does it say 'Thou shalt not rub one out'.

Not in those words, no. But there are injunctions against masturbation in the Talmud. I do not know if they are repeated in Christian scripture.
posted by zarq at 5:37 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the signatories is "Edward Cullen, 17."

THE GAME IS AFOOT NOW, TEENAGERS.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:52 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not in those words, no. But there are injunctions against masturbation in the Talmud. I do not know if they are repeated in Christian scripture.
Nope, they aren't. In the culture I'm talking about in my posts, though, the line goes that it is impossible to masturbate without lusting, and lust is a sin, sooooo...

It's sort of like saying that playing a video file on a particular monitor is fine, but if you have to circumvent encryption to do it, you're still breaking the law. Especially if it's a sexy video file.
posted by verb at 5:54 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I understand.
posted by zarq at 5:56 PM on August 1, 2010


Like valkyryn, I think if we're going to discuss this, there ought to be at least a minimal effort to understand this within the context of the community that took this survey. I myself don't think that we have to be stuck with only two options: Taliban or "anything goes," and I rather like it that some people are trying to talk about the practical implications of their shared morality. And it certainly isn't fair to take one survey and go on from there to rant about how one sided and misogynistic this is, when you're only getting one tiny slice of the picture. Claims that a discussion of modest clothing will lead to rapes and beatings, or that it's impossible to ask young guys what kinds of clothing they find particularly distracting without removing their personal responsibility for their behavior are far from justified, in my opinion.

On the other hand, whoever designed the website didn't do themselves any favors by illustrating it with a picture of a woman wearing a veil. A picture of a teen couple in jeans and T-shirts would come a lot closer to matching the actual survey results.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:58 PM on August 1, 2010


Burka Burka Burka
posted by A189Nut at 6:06 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Age 18 - First, I should be fighting as hard as I can to think of a girl as a person and a daughter of God, rather than a body for me to use. I should recognize that this girl before me is truly a person with thoughts, needs, hurts, joys, sorrows, and laughter. I should realize that she is truly made in God's image and is under his reign. I must realize who this girl is. She is not some body or shape to serve my foul pleasure of the moment; rather she is in truth a daughter of God. She is His special creation and handiwork. She is the one for whom Jesus bore pain and suffering and death on the Cross. She is in the kingdom of God, just as I am. I could go on forever: She is a princess; a loving child of God; the one for whom He died; His beloved creation; His gift to man; His gift of beauty to the world. I ought to be very frightened to think of her as an object of my lust. Look! Who is her protector? Who is her guardian that I will have to reckon with? None other than God Almighty! Her Father is my Savior! If I will but dwell on the understanding of who I am tempted to lust after, I should cower in my tracks and praise God for His mercy.

He sounds respectful at first, until you realize his only reason for respecting a girl is because she belongs to another man. Even if in this case, that man is God instead of her father or husband or boyfriend.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 6:09 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


verb,

I see your point about how this didn't go in some of the more stereotypically unproductive directions, but I'm still miffed that almost no one has made any serious attempt to figure out why these people are trying to do what they're doing and that bad motives are immediately imputed.

To deal with your main points specifically:

1) The thing is, theologically rigorous Christianity does view lust as sinful, yes? Modesty is a long-standing Christian practice, discussed in the Pauline epistles,* and a hallmark of traditional Christian culture since forever. Traditionally, there is also a recognition that the line between aesthetic appreciation of the human form and sinful sexual lust is as thin as a razor, and as a result, Christian thinkers have long taught that both prudence and consideration for others point us towards modesty. The problem here isn't that the Rebelution people want things which are inconsistent with Christian teachings, it's that they're going after those things in ways that are inconsistent with Christian teachings. So while the way you state the premise in bold isn't something I could be entirely comfortable with, the basic idea is still there.

2) Fundamentalism is fundamentalism, in that both seek to impose social control by modifying behavior and have no room for virtue ethics or, indeed, spiritual regeneration of any kind. But most of the crowd seems to be operating on the assumption that any argument for female modesty is the same thing as Sharia law, and it's just not true. The way these people are going about the project of modesty certainly can look that way, but the reason I'd object is not because modesty is inappropriate, but because virtue is the result of the operation of grace, not the imposition of law.

Besides, isn't this logically equivalent to asking "You know who else likes modesty?" It permits the questioner to reject the thesis out of hand without actually trying to figure out what's going on.

The reason I harp on that is because of comments like zarq's about how "poisonous" this all is, i.e. attitudes about sex and sexuality are bad to the extent that they diverge from modern liberal egalitarianism. Which brings me back around to my original thesis that criticizing this phenomenon by secular liberal standards is pointless in that it operates from a different set of axioms.

*And no, I don't want to have a conversation about the relative merits of Pauline theology.
posted by valkyryn at 6:12 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pater Aletheias, I think that simply reading the letters of endorsement from various Christian authors is damning enough, when it comes to the nature of the survey. See this quote from the author of the extremely popular book, Every Man's Battle.
Girls are in a tough spot when it comes to modesty. They are called by God to dress modestly, but because they aren't born with the same "visual nature" in their sexuality as guys are, it is difficult for women to spot where modesty begins and ends. Where are the boundaries? What trips a guy's trigger, and what doesn't?
Think through what is being said here: the clear implication is that "modesty" is not a standard that can be known and understood, but the lowest common denominator of male arousal.

Related is Joshua Harris (author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, the seminal dating book in hip Gen-X and Gen-Y Protestant circles).
I wish we didn't need this survey. I wish that fathers and brothers in local churches could serve their daughters and sisters and that each home could provide loving direction on its own.
In other words, "Fathers and brothers should be telling their daughters that guys will get turned on if they show calf, that guys will mentally undress them if they go jogging, that their bodies are an incitement to sin, and so on. But since some girls clearly aren't getting that message, we need this survey."

I understand that you're talking about understanding the nuances of an ongoing discussion in Christian culture about sexual mores, temptation, and so on. And I understand that at some level, "talking about it publicly" is a good step. This letter isn't that, however. It is a message to well-meaning Christian girls that their bodies are the problem, even if they don't intend them to be. Most depressing for me was the quote by Nancy DeMoss, host of a relatively well-known Christian radio show:
As women, clothing and appearance are some of the most powerful and important means we have of sending a message about our hearts and our values.
That sentence makes me want to weep.
posted by verb at 6:17 PM on August 1, 2010 [10 favorites]


It is a message to well-meaning Christian girls that their bodies are the problem, even if they don't intend them to be.

That is frequently the message that comes across. This sucks and is one of the main reasons I'd attack what Rebelution is trying to do here.

But again, I'd argue that this is because the people saying those things don't understand what they're saying. I'd go back to what I said here, i.e. when Christians stop understanding and caring about their theological tradition, bad, bad stuff happens.

Of course, when they do start caring, the result is likely to be at least as objectionable to the rest of the world as what's going on here, so it isn't as if I'm trying to argue that what's going on here somehow isn't so bad by non-Christian standards. Doing it right would be even more radical. If anything, my critique here is that it's trying to use human means to solve a problem that Christian doctrine indicates only the God can.
posted by valkyryn at 6:30 PM on August 1, 2010


Calling someone a misogynist who fundamentally disagrees with you about why constitutes "misogyny" isn't helpful or interesting.

I'm not throwing the term "misogyny" around as an ad hominem attack, a la "fascist" or "nazi". I'm being quite literal. And I understand Evangelical Christianity quite well on its own terms: I grew up in the bible belt, have born again relatives, and have pretty much grown up with an awareness of Evangelical ideas. And I'll maintain, in the face of all that, that this particular attitude within Evangelical movements is misogynist, in the most basic dictionary definition sense of the term.
posted by Sara C. at 6:40 PM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


The thing is, theologically rigorous Christianity does view lust as sinful, yes?
Yes, that's true -- and the traditional rejoinder is that no woman can make you lust, any more than a bank can make you steal by having lots of money. The apocryphal Martin Luther quotation, if I remember correctly, is "You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." The survey is an attempt to catalog all of the ways birds can fly over a young man's head, not to deal with the real issue that historic Christianity considers problematic.
But most of the crowd seems to be operating on the assumption that any argument for female modesty is the same thing as Sharia law, and it's just not true.
I think that it's more accurate to say that the things the survey describes as immodest or problematic are so innocuous that it is impossible for an observer to not draw the line between such thinking and the justifications for Sharia law.

The people who put the survey together are very, very careful to avoid any commentary. They emphasize, repeatedly, that they are not telling girls that they shouldn't stretch in public, for example. What they do emphasize is that these things, you know, lead their brothers in Christ into sin, and we're not supposed to be stumbling blocks, and anyone who really loves Jesus can do the math...

Their careful lack of commentary is a shameful, despicable dodge in my opinion: they refuse to address the real question: when does this issue of temptation become a guy's issue to deal with, on his own? When is it perfectly okay to wear a swimsuit, regardless of how stiff it makes Neil from the youth group? It's that practiced, deliberate raising of questions and the reliance on fuzzy hand-waving that is typical of 'Real True Christian' cultural approaches to sexuality.

Complex and difficult questions are punted to the Priesthood of All Believers: the result is that kids who smell bullshit decide it's all crap, while kids who really, really care end up taking on the burdens of others' sinfulness. This is not an academic issue: I have close friends who dealt with that shit after being sexually assaulted, let alone inspiring a lustful thought.


I'm not suggesting that you think that is okay, or that you would condone such things. I'm thrilled that folks like you and Pater Aletheias have a different perspective that is informed by a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Christian history and theology, that embraces the communal responsibility that Christian believers have to each other and so on. What I'm saying is that your nuanced theological has little if nothing to do with the message that is actually being communicated in hundreds of thousands of churches around the country.
Besides, isn't this logically equivalent to asking "You know who else likes modesty?" It permits the questioner to reject the thesis out of hand without actually trying to figure out what's going on.
You know, lots of atheists like modesty, too. The issue here is that 'modesty' often devolves into "innocuous things women do that men blame for their own sexual feelings."
posted by verb at 6:40 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


If anyone ever tells these kids that there is porn on the internet, they're fucked.
posted by purephase at 6:50 PM on August 1, 2010


And it certainly isn't fair to take one survey and go on from there to rant about how one sided and misogynistic this is, when you're only getting one tiny slice of the picture.

Oh, believe me, I'm not at all getting my ideas about this (or of Evangelical Christianity in general) from just this one survey. See my last comment above, for instance. I'm quite familiar with Christian Modesty, and not just from this particular MeFi post. I grew up around Evangelical culture, so I'm very aware that this isn't just a misrepresented rather extreme slice of a moderate and reasonable full picture of Evangelicalism's approach to gender and sexuality. It's quite typical, to be honest, and absolutely representative of everything I've ever seen from this particular culture.

Why do all Evangelicals think their beliefs are some big secret? You're like 10% of the American population. You have huge churches in every town of any size across the nation. You have TV shows and books and movies. We know what you believe - it couldn't be less mysterious if it were a commercial for McDonald's.
posted by Sara C. at 6:52 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


If anyone ever tells these kids that there is porn on the internet, they're fucked.
Or, more likely, they'll develop an addictive cycle of secret pornography consumption, massive guilt and self-loathing, overcompensation by publicly maintaining a hate-on for "lust" and "immodesty," and the eventual projection of responsibility for their own feelings onto women.

To be fair, I think that the kids who sign onto something like that are probably very, very sincere about their desire to be respectful and not treat other women as sexual objects. I grew up in that kind of environment, and I know that I was sincere about it.The profound tragedy is that they're not being shown how to be a respectful, empathetic, sexual person. They're being told that being sexual is in conflict with being empathetic and respectful.

That's one of the most dangerous things I can imagine telling a teenager.
posted by verb at 6:56 PM on August 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


The idea that what you feel when you see an attractive girl is "sin" as opposed to "something you have to learn to deal with as a human being."

Yeah... see... the thing is they don't believe that. What they believe is that indulging in sexual pleasure outside of marriage is sinful. This doesn't mean that simply being attracted to another person is sinful, but that what you do with that attraction may be sinful. Furthermore, certain types of attraction are more likely to lead someone what Christians view as sexual sin.

The idea that women should shoulder the burden of preventing mens' lustful thoughts.

There's a general Christian idea that those who have burdens (which in this case is the men) shouldn't have to shoulder them alone. When that burden is the temptation towards sexual sin, we help each other shoulder that burden just like we would the burden of poverty, or disease or whatever. Specifically, in this case, they're generalizing from 1 Cornthians 8:
9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
Not in those words, no. But there are injunctions against masturbation in the Talmud. I do not know if they are repeated in Christian scripture.
Nope, they aren't.


It's a little more complicated than that. The Catholic Church, puts authority in Tradition as well as in Scripture and this is somewhat (very roughly) analogous to the Talmud. In some ways it's fair to say that an explicit prohibition isn't found in scripture, but it is found in the Catholic equivalent of the Talmud.
posted by Jahaza at 7:02 PM on August 1, 2010


This doesn't mean that simply being attracted to another person is sinful,

Isn't it, though? Biblically? Honest question.
posted by mreleganza at 7:11 PM on August 1, 2010


"If you don't have a dad or brother to ask about the propriety of specific outfits or articles, try to find a brother in Christ who you can ask. As helpful as surveys and things like this can be, they can't ever answer a question like "Does THIS pattern draw too much attention to my chest?" I'm not really sure what kind of criteria you should put on this kind of surrogate male family member (except that they should definitely be "aware" of girls, and understand and appreciate what you're trying to do), so you'll have to think through what would be appropriate, and what you would be most comfortable with, yourself. I don't think it should be too hard to find someone willing to help you in this way. I know for sure that I would be perfectly happy (not to mention thrilled that a girl was taking this stuff into consideration) to help someone in this manner."
Warren Jeffs, is that you?
posted by pineapple at 7:19 PM on August 1, 2010


The idea that what you feel when you see an attractive girl is "sin" as opposed to "something you have to learn to deal with as a human being."

Yeah... see... the thing is they don't believe that. What they believe is that indulging in sexual pleasure outside of marriage is sinful. This doesn't mean that simply being attracted to another person is sinful, but that what you do with that attraction may be sinful.
And the shameful, despicable truth is that voices in mainstream protestant culture are unwilling to discuss the question, "Where's the line between sexual attraction, sexual pleasure, and sin?" The answer, by default, is "If you enjoy it, you're sinning."

It doesn't take a theologian to understand that is a problematic heuristic to give kids.
There's a general Christian idea that those who have burdens (which in this case is the men) shouldn't have to shoulder them alone
The funny thing is, it always seems to be men who need help on this front. Strange how that works out, that women always seem to be tempting the poor men, what with their stretching and their tank tops. That's a serious cultural problem.
posted by verb at 7:32 PM on August 1, 2010


they refuse to address the real question: when does this issue of temptation become a guy's issue to deal with, on his own?

That would involve something approaching a serious attempt to deal with a theological issue. Making rules is easier. Not only that, but rules mean you don't need to exercise wisdom.

I'm not trying to defend what these people are doing. If anything, I'm more offended by it than most people here seem to be. The only difference is that I'm attempting to critique it from within rather than from without.
posted by valkyryn at 7:41 PM on August 1, 2010


This doesn't mean that simply being attracted to another person is sinful,

Isn't it, though? Biblically? Honest question.


To get at this, you'd have to do a lot of parsing Greek and Hebrew verbs, and know a fair amount about the background ideas regarding persons, sexuality, body-vs-spirit etc. in the ancient world. And quite frankly, it's not like the Bible is the product of a single, monolithic worldview. The guys who wrote Deuteronomy had a very different conception of all these terms (and many more) than the guy who wrote Romans.

But the way most Christians seem to take it these days is that being attracted to a person is different from being attracted to a body, and that the latter is sinful. The latter is also distinguished by purely sexual attraction, while the former involves other attributes - character and personality for example.

For what its worth, the idea that even sexual attraction itself was a bad thing wouldn't have made much sense in the context of most of the OT writers. Sex outside of marriage was bad because it screwed with property values (one of which was, for the male head of household, the virginity of his female children), and led in the case of marital infidelity to violent feuds. The idea that lust is as bad as adultery, rather than just problematic in that it might lead to adultery, doesn't really seem to catch on until Jesus' own take on things in Matthew 5:27.

How did Jesus mean this? Well, the might have been one of the trademark exaggerations (and so might the whole 'cut off your hand rather than sin' idea) used by prophets and holy men to strike fear and awe into their audiences, burning the lessons and commands they were conveying into the latter's minds through outlandish acts and parallels. The OT prophets did this by, for example, grilling food over animal excrement, marrying prostitutes, and using a constant rhetoric of utter destruction and transcendent redemption, and by contradicting sacred traditions. When Isaiah said, for example:

"The multitude of your sacrifices--what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats..."

He wasn't necessarily saying that sacrificial practice was worthless - but he was pointing to a more important (in his eyes) moral shortfall, and using a shocking and disturbing literary device - having God Himself denounce the sacrifice in absolute terms - to ram the lesson home.

Or it is possible that Jesus meant the parallel between thought and action quite literally, as part of his rhetoric of humanity's essentially fallen nature. Even if you never rape, or murder, or steal, you are still a fallen human being who requires redemption. No one is truly innocent, all require salvation, no one can say, "I have not sinned." The men who wanted to stone to prostitute in the inserted tale in John 8 may never have had sex with a prostitute, but by Jesus' standards, all were as guilty as she was.

Of course, that last is kind of a hypothesis - John was written in a different time and place, and by a different person, than Matthew, and the two writers may have had different interpretations of the adultery-lust intersection. Anyway, the point is - question complicated but interesting, and open to interpretation by modern Christians not just because they may have a wider liberal or conservative slant they want to line it up with, but because the evidence itself is fragmentary, contradictory and requires knowledge of cultural background which we do not at present possess in full.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:45 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's a little more complicated than that. The Catholic Church, puts authority in Tradition as well as in Scripture and this is somewhat (very roughly) analogous to the Talmud. In some ways it's fair to say that an explicit prohibition isn't found in scripture, but it is found in the Catholic equivalent of the Talmud.

Ah. OK. Thank you, that makes sense.
posted by zarq at 7:46 PM on August 1, 2010


I'll maintain, in the face of all that, that this particular attitude within Evangelical movements is misogynist, in the most basic dictionary definition sense of the term.

You are asserting that these beliefs constitute misogyny. Well, obvious as it may seem, not everyone agrees with that assertion, and saying that you are correct because you think your argument is consistent with the dictionary is just begging the question, pure and simple. You aren't engaging in an ad hominem, but you are assuming the truth of the conclusion.

Why do all Evangelicals think their beliefs are some big secret?

I don't consider myself to be an evangelical, and I highly doubt Pater Alethias would either. As a matter of fact, I deliberately parted ways with the evangelical church ten years ago, a move which has created familial stress and probably cost me a couple of friends. By assuming that we are evangelicals, you're establishing the point that you don't understand what we actually believe.

You're like 10% of the American population.

Try 25-45%.
posted by valkyryn at 7:51 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the shameful, despicable truth is that voices in mainstream protestant culture are unwilling to discuss the question, "Where's the line between sexual attraction, sexual pleasure, and sin?" The answer, by default, is "If you enjoy it, you're sinning."

We're on the same page there. Again, answering that question with anything other than some sort of absolutist default requires a degree of intellectual engagement of which most American Protestants are simply incapable.
posted by valkyryn at 7:53 PM on August 1, 2010


I'm not trying to defend what these people are doing. If anything, I'm more offended by it than most people here seem to be. The only difference is that I'm attempting to critique it from within rather than from without.
Agreed, and appreciated. I think what angers me more than anything is the knowledge of what an incredible, brutal uphill struggle you face doing that. I stayed inside of the church long after I had ceased to believe because I believed that these things were important, critical issues -- eventually I had to concede that I was being dishonest, and that I would have to leave those issues in the hands of those who still believed. I was no longer a legitimate 'voice from within.'

I hope you and those who believe as you do are able to make more headway.
posted by verb at 8:08 PM on August 1, 2010


>This doesn't mean that simply being attracted to another person is sinful,

Isn't it, though? Biblically? Honest question.


Nope. Scripture takes a high view of sex, as a matter of fact. Song of Solomon/Song of Songs is a fairly graphic erotic poem, as it turns out. You can be attracted to whoever you want. You can also think that wine is tasty and that cars are fun to drive. Desire, as such, is usually not the problem. Desire for something only becomes a problem when it supplants one's desire for God. Ultimately, sin is essentially about wanting what we want more than what God wants. So seeing a pretty girl and thinking "Hey, that's nice!" and then going on about your business isn't problematic.

Part of what the Rebelution people are struggling with is a ramification of the contemporary American elevation of sexual sin to the Worst Thing Ever. Yeah, Scripture does make a big deal out of it, and it consistently shows up on various lists of Really Bad Things, but idolatry is always a bigger problem. Indeed, sexual immorality is usually portrayed as a consequence of idolatry rather than a root problem. But somehow, idolatry, the desiring of anything more than God, never seems to get much air time. It turns out that attacking people for their sexual sin makes charges of hypocrisy way easier to avoid than attacking people for not loving God enough, even if the latter weren't entirely self-defeating. When it comes right down to it, the most significant critique of the Rebelution may be that it focuses on consequential issues like modesty and sexual purity while ignoring the central question of godliness. Focusing on that makes the whole issue sort of blend into the general background.

That being said, I'm not so sure that AdamCSnider's parsing of the issue is entirely on point. Or, at least, that isn't how Christianity has traditionally thought about it. The orthodox position is that sexual ethics don't have anything to do with property values, they have to do with holiness. But that aside, the idea that the law has far more to do with the condition of your heart, which would make lust a problem per se, is evident throughout the Psalms and prophets.

The picture isn't nearly as "fragmentary" or "contradictory" as he would make out, and cultural background, while interesting, is not the be-all and end-all of Scriptural interpretation. Indeed, the position he describes in his second-to-last paragraph has been the standard Christian understanding of what's going on pretty much forever.
posted by valkyryn at 8:09 PM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


I hope you and those who believe as you do are able to make more headway.

Thanks for the encouragement, and I hope so too. It helps that, again, I ditched the mainstream evangelical tradition for something a little more--okay, quite a bit more--traditional and intellectually rigorous about a decade ago.* I was a hair's breadth from ditching the entire enterprise when someone finally got around to telling me that there was more to the whole Christianity thing than the people at my parents' church understood. If that hadn't happened, I'd have walked away without looking back.

*I.e. I chose an entirely different set of problems, but one which I'm better suited to.
posted by valkyryn at 8:12 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


For what its worth, the idea that even sexual attraction itself was a bad thing wouldn't have made much sense in the context of most of the OT writers.

Yeah... and I feel I have to reiterate that it's not at all clear that it was for the NT writers and this is certainly not the current position of the Catholic Church (that sexual attraction is bad). The position of the Catholic Church is that sexual attraction is a natural impulse like hunger or thirst and is morally neutral and that like hunger, which when overindulged and wrongly ordered can lead to gluttony, sexual attraction can lead to sin, but is not itself sinful.
posted by Jahaza at 8:19 PM on August 1, 2010


Or, at least, that isn't how Christianity has traditionally thought about it. The orthodox position is that sexual ethics don't have anything to do with property values, they have to do with holiness.

I wasn't addressing the orthodox Christian position, actually - rather, I was trying to get at what the position of the culture described in the early texts of the OT thought about these issues, using what I know of scholarship as a guide. Hence the property values comment. But I don't claim to be an expert, or to have exhaustive knowledge in this area - there may be other opinions on the matter that I haven't encountered in the literature.

I guess we may be taking the original question's key word - "Biblically" - differently. I assumed the question meant "in relation to the text itself" rather than the traditional way the text is interpreted. Certainly Christianity, as it has developed over the centuries, has looked at these texts in particular ways that differ from the picture I was painting.

But that aside, the idea that the law has far more to do with the condition of your heart, which would make lust a problem per se, is evident throughout the Psalms and prophets.

Definitely - again, the Bible isn't monolithic.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:24 PM on August 1, 2010


valkyryn, I think misogyny is not an unjust word, either. And I did grow up in an evangelical church.

But I can offer a qualification here; misogynistic policies or principles or assumptions can exist independent of the people who follow them unthinkingly.

In other words, most Christians like most people love their female friends and relatives and spouses and children, and in most cases, would protest anyone calling them "inferior."

However, a system of religious belief that has, at its center, an assumption about women as pollutants--women as temptations--women as subordinates--is, in fact misogynistic. Because it does not acknowledge them as only people in the same way that men are only people.

We do not fetishize male bodies; we do not warn men of the dangerous thoughts they may create in women; we do not assign their female relatives as the guardians of their "purity." Because those attitudes towards women may be cloaked in pretty language, but stem from a concept of women as property. As, to put it crudely, vaginas and uteruses and reproductive resources that can both be polluted and pollute, that can be made less valuable simply by being used in an unapproved fashion, that should be guarded like any other piece of property from theft, that belong not to the women whose bodies they inhabit but to their male guardians and owners and to their male-headed society or church.

Not as people with minds and wills who own their bodies.

However we dance around it and make it about spirituality and purity, there is nothing more misogynistic than asserting that women's bodies are objects to be feared, guarded, taken, and given by others, that their bodies are not the possessions of women themselves. Yes, we sometimes say similar things in the church about everyone, that we all belong to God, etc., but this site and many others show that when it comes to men, we don't really mean it.

It's the female property that is feared/avoided/struggled for/possessed. And when you fear something? You hate it too.
posted by emjaybee at 8:32 PM on August 1, 2010 [25 favorites]


Damn. I thought this was going to have pictures. All it really has is lulz.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:51 PM on August 1, 2010


The temptation to what? Rape? You shouldn't be doing that regardless of what you are being tempted with. Masturbate? Grow up. Be attracted to a female and perhaps approach her in order to engage in human conversation? Ah.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:25 PM on August 1, 2010


just wanted to point out that, for a thread that could have gone seriously off the LOLXIANS rails, this has become quite interesting and compelling
posted by davejay at 10:20 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


No minding your own stunted business is immodest
posted by the noob at 10:32 PM on August 1, 2010


Wow, this thread is a veritable parade of Christian-bashing distortions and misconceptions.

Surely it's the fault of those young christian boys for running around with such narrow minds? They were asking for it.

If they'd been wearing proper, easy-going tolerant attitudes like decent folk, they wouldn't have gotten mocked.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:34 PM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


"A teenage rebellion against low expectations" is kind of a terrible slogan when they've got such low expectations of men and boys.
posted by autoclavicle at 11:27 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


The position of the Catholic Church is that sexual attraction is a natural impulse like hunger or thirst and is morally neutral and that like hunger, which when overindulged and wrongly ordered can lead to gluttony, sexual attraction can lead to sin, but is not itself sinful.

This, of course, only applies to straight people.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:04 AM on August 2, 2010


most likely via jezebel.

see the rather interesting discussion that takes place when someone associated with the survey replies to criticism in the comments section.
posted by buka at 1:38 AM on August 2, 2010


And this is not a case of lust, you see
it's not a matter of you versus of me
It's fine the way you want me on your own
but in the end it's always me alone
posted by bwg at 2:11 AM on August 2, 2010


Mike Hunt, 23, wants women to know what his stumbling blocks are.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:22 AM on August 2, 2010


I'd like to see a mirror-image poll that could be summarized as follows: "Young Christian women: how do you want men to restrict their behavior so that they do not force you to think of yourselves as sex objects?"

Categories:
- Ways in which men may look / may not look at a woman
- Things men may say / may not say concerning what a woman wears
- Things men may say / may not say concerning how a woman acts
- Subjects about which men may speak / may not speak with women
- Situations in which men may / may not touch a woman
- Which parts of a woman's body are OK / not OK for a man to touch
- Other things that men may say or do that make women feel uncomfortable

To paraphrase: "Where is your onus now?"
posted by labberdasher at 3:43 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see a mirror-image poll that could be summarized as follows

That happens. I'm too far from my evangelical roots to be able to lay hold of any linkable resources off the top of my head, but it's certainly a pretty common feature of youth group discussions in evangelical culture.
posted by valkyryn at 3:50 AM on August 2, 2010


However, a system of religious belief that has, at its center, an assumption about women as pollutants--women as temptations--women as subordinates--is, in fact misogynistic.

The problem we're having here is that observers such as yourself are arguing that the only way one could do something along the lines of the Rebelution survey is to make those assumptions. The Rebelution people would disagree, and from my experience in evangelical culture, I'd disagree as well. Those attitudes are actually pretty foreign to my experience in evangelical culture.

So in essence, what you're doing is ascribing motivations and attitudes to people who would reject such categorizations. I'm not sure where the conversation can go from there beyond accusing each other of bad faith.
posted by valkyryn at 3:55 AM on August 2, 2010


This, of course, only applies to straight people.

No, actually, it doesn't. The Catholic position regarding homosexuality is that homosexual desires are just desires. They're essentially things that happen to you and have no different moral valence than the desire for food.

The catch is that they believe in an objectively normative sexuality and that homosexual desires deviate from those norms.

This does not make those desires sinful, as sin requires some act of will. But they are broken, in the same way that an alcoholic's desire for beer or the normal, everyday desire to be in charge of your own life is broken.

Sin only enters the picture when you act on your desires.

This is a subtle position, and a derail at that, but it's what they think.
posted by valkyryn at 4:01 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who knew that wearing your purse messanger style, with a printed t-shirt was sexy? Not teenage me, who did this all the time and still had no dates.

Of course, maybe the printed t-shirt is less sexy when it's a baggy Star Trek shirt in that thick cotton that flatters no one (from conventions, even!).
posted by jb at 6:18 AM on August 2, 2010


"However, a system of religious belief that has, at its center, an assumption about women as pollutants--women as temptations--women as subordinates--is, in fact misogynistic."

The problem we're having here is that observers such as yourself are arguing that the only way one could do something along the lines of the Rebelution survey is to make those assumptions. The Rebelution people would disagree, and from my experience in evangelical culture, I'd disagree as well. Those attitudes are actually pretty foreign to my experience in evangelical culture.
They are pretty spot-on in my experience of evangelical culture, and according to quite a few others who have said that they grew up in (or are even currently part of) evangelical culture, the observations are accurate. The letters from the adults who sponsored and supported the survey are damning enough as it is; there's no need to project motives onto the guys who answered it.

No one is suggesting that Evangelicals* sit around talking about how women are chattel, and trading their daughters for herds of goats. Instead, the discussion here has been about the ugly undercurrent of sexual identity and sexual responsibility assumptions in that culture. The problem is that -- as with Sharia law -- all the talk about respect for women and their incredible worth before God and the need to treat them with honor is also tied up with the view that womens' immodesty is a function of the male gaze, that a girl is off limits because she belongs to someone else, and that female existence is some sort of dangerous Ebola virus of temptation.

And of course the people who hold the views being critiqued would disagree that the views dangerous. How many Protestants agree with your assessment that they are "incapable" of serious intellectual engagement with difficult theological questions? Not many, I'd wager. Yet you are comfortable making that assessment as an outsider to that culture.

I've tried to be very careful in my own statements in this thread, making clear that I am talking about my own experience and the experience of the people I know. Others here have not been quite as CYA scrupulous, but from their posts it's clear they are speaking from experience. emjaybee in particular has made several comments in this thread referring to Christianity as "us" and describing her history in evangelical culture. Now, you're describing her as "an outside observer" when you yourself note that you left the Protestant church a decade ago.

I grew up in Evangelical and Charismatic churches. I was part of an Assemblies of God youth group. I worked with True Love Waits(tm), Focus On The Family, and Catholic Pro-Life organizations. I wrote nationally published articles about abstinence and purity. For almost four years, I co-led one of te Small Groups that you dislike so much. I was on the staff of the largest nondenominational church in the midwest. This is not to say that I am right and you are wrong, just trying to note that "You outsiders don't understand this culture, I can critique it" is an easy but profoundly inaccurate trap to fall into.
No, actually, it doesn't. The Catholic position regarding homosexuality is that homosexual desires are just desires. They're essentially things that happen to you and have no different moral valence than the desire for food.
Imagine telling a vegan that their desire for food is perfectly acceptable -- it's just that eating vegan food is a sin! -- and the analogy snaps into focus a bit more.

While I'd agree that it's a bit of a derail from the original topic of the post, valkyryn, your analogy papers over the fundamental difference: straight youth group kids are told they can hold their lustful bodies in check because marriage will be a hot, smokin', sex vacation. Gay youth group kids are told, well, join a small group. Because you will never, ever be able to have a relationship or connect to someone sexually unless you start wanting different things entirely.

Of course, there's a pile of theology behind that statement, and sin is sin, and so on. But pretending it's as simple as "Hunger isn't wrong, just gluttony!" is profoundly disingenuous.

* (In fact, I don't restrict it to Evangelicals: when I'm discussing this issue I'm talking about a broader culture of 'Real True Christianism' that includes much of North American Protestantism. It's imprecise, but them's the breaks.)
posted by verb at 6:34 AM on August 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


on a more serious note:

Why is masterbation forbidden? Given the reality of sexual hormones -- and, as bad as they can be for teenage girls, they are so much more powerful for teenage boys -- why forbid masterbation? why not embrace it as an aid to celibacy?

Yes, yes, I know all about Onan, but most Christians have no problem with shellfish, so it's clear not every word of the bible is law. And it seems to me that encouraging healthy masterbation would do a lot of good in helping young men and women stay celibate.

I think celibacy is a great idea for young people -- because sex gets you into difficult emotional situations many don't have the emotional maturity for. But it's not fair to their biology to demand both celibacy and no masterbation. Girls will just sublimate their desires into unrealistic crushes -- and boys (who do often have an even stronger sex drive) will just go plain crazy. Seriously -- one reason that Edwardian young men would go running around the countryside jumping over hedges was lack of release, bc even the more liberal believed masterbation was bad for their health.

Since we know that materbation has no ill effects -- why are public health authorities not making statements recommending it?
posted by jb at 7:15 AM on August 2, 2010


Marriage definitely is a hot, smokin' sex vacation -- and that is why we should all fight for marriage equality for all.
posted by jb at 7:18 AM on August 2, 2010


Awesome! Now I know how to attract teenage boys! Grrrrr...
posted by Evangeline at 7:24 AM on August 2, 2010


Awesome! Now I know how to attract teenage boys!

Have a pulse and boobs? Actually the pulse is optional.
posted by MikeMc at 7:49 AM on August 2, 2010


all the talk about respect for women and their incredible worth before God and the need to treat them with honor is also tied up with the view that womens' immodesty is a function of the male gaze, that a girl is off limits because she belongs to someone else, and that female existence is some sort of dangerous Ebola virus of temptation.

I guess that's just something I haven't come across. It's entirely possible that this is because I'd already decided that none of the teachers in my parents' church knew their theological asses from their elbows and basically stopped paying attention a couple of years before I formally went elsewhere. But I think it's also possible that there's room to talk about modesty without making it a function of the male gaze. More to the point, a basic tenet of Christian ethics is that everyone belongs to someone else, and that this is not objectionable, so that part of the whole argument for misogyny isn't really apt.

Are mainstream American evangelicals generally confused and messed up when it comes to thinking about sex? Absolutely, and in many of the ways that you describe here. If it seems that I've been trying to argue that this isn't the case, I failed to make myself clear. My position, however poorly communicated, is that 1) what the Rebelution want is consistent with a version of Christianity which does not have those problems, and even if theirs does have them, their methodology and practice are problematic for independent reasons, and 2) a culture which is not messed up in those ways could easily produce results which are uncannily similar, i.e. modesty being a virtue, temptation a communal social problem, etc.

you yourself note that you left the Protestant church a decade ago.

I didn't. I just switched denominations within the Protestant tradition. I'll no longer accept the moniker "evangelical," as that's come to mean the overly political, theologically vapid stuff you see on the news, but I'm probably more Protestant than I was when I made the switch. I'm also still pretty involved in the culture--personally and professionally--so I can still speak as an insider, even if I'm something of a mole.

Still, your broader comments about assuming that other people are not speaking from experience are well said. I'll try to be more careful about that.

straight youth group kids are told they can hold their lustful bodies in check because marriage will be a hot, smokin', sex vacation. Gay youth group kids are told, well, join a small group. Because you will never, ever be able to have a relationship or connect to someone sexually unless you start wanting different things entirely.... pretending it's as simple as "Hunger isn't wrong, just gluttony!" is profoundly disingenuous.

I grant you that this is frequently the way that American evangelicalism puts it, and I agree with you that this is bad and wrong. But the problem there is that they're failing to recognize that being a heterosexual married couple does not give one permission to indulge in sexual license. So it's true that they're creating a double standard, but my preferred solution is to tell everyone that they need to guard against sexual immortality, not just some people.

As a matter of fact, this is probably one of the functional reasons that the church tends to have such a hard time dealing with persons who identify as gay: even if they were completely okay with abstaining from sex and complying with everything the church teaches about sexuality, the church wouldn't have any place for them. Why? Because the contemporary church doesn't have any room for single people, period. So there isn't a category into which they could naturally fit even if they wanted to. Most people in the church are either married or trying to get married, and there's very little room, socially or institutionally, for someone who just likes the single life.

This is a massive problem, and one which I've had to deal with for my entire adult life. For the past five years or so, I have been uniquely positioned to be of service to the congregations of which I have been a member, but because I don't need child care and am not really set up to provide it, it has been really, really hard for me to find ways of getting involved. I'm far from alone, and this is one of the reason the church has such a hard time attracting and retaining young professionals.

But it's also implicated by the Rebelution thing. The entire project is partly predicated on the idea that you have to be disciplined now, but there will come a day when you don't have to be. That just isn't what the church has believed for most of its history, and setting up that dichotomy is one of the things which contributes to really weird results like this one. I mean, if modesty is a communal problem--and it's always been considered such--why isn't this something that families should be talking about? Getting married shouldn't give you a free pass on modesty, but that is somehow dropped entirely out of the equation without so much as a word. Why isn't it rooted in the health of the community? Why is it limited to teenagers? None of these things make any sense at all when embedded in the broader Christian tradition.
posted by valkyryn at 7:57 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why is masturbation forbidden?

As discussed above, it isn't forbidden as such, but it's generally considered impermissible because doing it without lusting--which is forbidden as such--is generally considered impossible.
posted by valkyryn at 7:58 AM on August 2, 2010


(In fact, I don't restrict it to Evangelicals: when I'm discussing this issue I'm talking about a broader culture of 'Real True Christianism' that includes much of North American Protestantism. It's imprecise, but them's the breaks.)

I grew up and remain what used to be called Mainline Protestant (PCUSA) and all of this stuff is totally and completely foreign to me. I know it only from a small group of kids who I grew up with in the South, primarily Southern Baptist or non-denominational, most of whom either implicitly or explicitly shunned me as not being a real Christian.

I have African-American and Latino friends from both mainline and pentecostal backgrounds who don't talk like this, except perhaps for the Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses, a racially integrated bunch which each have an entirely different set of cultural restrictions from everybody else.

My experience is that this stuff is only restricted to the white, conservative Evangelical movement of the US which has largely arisen in the past few decades and it makes the rest of us--Christian, other religion, and atheist alike--really uncomfortable.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:04 AM on August 2, 2010


As discussed above, it isn't forbidden as such, but it's generally considered impermissible because doing it without lusting--which is forbidden as such--is generally considered impossible.

When I was sixteen, I sat through a half-hour argument in a class for teenage boys on precisely this topic. The teacher eventually ruled that it was still wrong, as it meant you were exhibiting a lack of self-control, even if you scrupulously avoided thinking of anything sexual while you jerked off. Man, evangelicals can be weird.
posted by EarBucket at 8:05 AM on August 2, 2010


The teacher eventually ruled that it was still wrong, as it meant you were exhibiting a lack of self-control, even if you scrupulously avoided thinking of anything sexual while you jerked off. Man, evangelicals can be weird.

That's actually not a an evangelical position as such; it's the traditional Christian position in general. It's certainly the argument in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
posted by valkyryn at 8:10 AM on August 2, 2010


I didn't. I just switched denominations within the Protestant tradition. I'll no longer accept the moniker "evangelical," as that's come to mean the overly political, theologically vapid stuff you see on the news, but I'm probably more Protestant than I was when I made the switch. I'm also still pretty involved in the culture--personally and professionally--so I can still speak as an insider, even if I'm something of a mole.
Doh!

Thanks for the clarification. My best friend went through a similar shift a few years ago -- and he ended up charismating in the Orthodox church. I'm pretty sure I muddled his experiences with yourswhen thinking through some of these arguments. My apologies!
posted by verb at 8:13 AM on August 2, 2010


My experience is that this stuff is only restricted to the white, conservative Evangelical movement of the US which has largely arisen in the past few decades and it makes the rest of us--Christian, other religion, and atheist alike--really uncomfortable.

Pretty much. The history of evangelicalism as a distinct and identifiable movement isn't a terribly long one--think Billy Graham in the 1950s and 1960s--and there was a rather uncomfortable amount of segregationist sentiment knocking around at the time, most of which has been forgotten as embarrassing. A couple of denominations have taken concrete steps to address and apologize for that, but even though there's been a lot of progress there, there's been little in the way of formal steps.

But the movement draws on deeper trends which go back quite a ways. One can perhaps trace things all the way back to the Second Great Awakening. Many of the churches and traditions which came out of that series of events grew increasingly dismayed at the liberalism and heterodoxy of the mainline denominations--PCUSA, ECUSA, ELCA, Methodists, etc.--but this simmering discontent didn't really coalesce into an identifiable movement until the early-to-mid twentieth century. Mass media and telecommunications helped quite a bit.

American religious history is just fascinating stuff. So much contradiction, so many bizarre and unexpected connections. Like, for example, the fact that the Protestant church was uniformly opposed to contraception until the 1930s, when the Church of England moderated its stance. Within two decades, American Protestant traditions had forgotten that it had once been a moral issue at all. Huh?
posted by valkyryn at 8:17 AM on August 2, 2010


But the problem there is that they're failing to recognize that being a heterosexual married couple does not give one permission to indulge in sexual license.
Yes, a thousand times yes.

That particular framing of the issue might be unfamiliar to those who aren't thinking of it as a theological issue, so I'll lay it out in slightly different words for anyone who's still interested and still reading the thread:
  1. Imagine sexuality is treated as sinful and tainted, and extramarital sexual interaction is considered inherently disrespectful and exploitative and lustful.
  2. Now imagine "But once you're married, it's full steam ahead!" is held out as the promise for self-disciplined teenagers.
  3. Now assume that, thanks to a deep and profound unwillingness to discuss complex questions that lack simple black-and-white answers, kids are never told what changes about sexuality after marriage, other than "it becomes okay."
Given those building blocks, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand how a fair number of kids growing up in RTC culture develop some very... let's say unhealthy views about things like mutual respect look like inside of a marriage. Replace "This was supposed to be the future, where's my jetpack?" with "This was supposed to be marital bliss, where's my [virgin whore / chaste stallion]?" Again, this is not to say that someone is deliberately trying to communicate that, just that it is a very easy natural consequence of the laziness and fear that drives much of the messaging.
The history of evangelicalism as a distinct and identifiable movement isn't a terribly long one--think Billy Graham in the 1950s and 1960s--and there was a rather uncomfortable amount of segregationist sentiment knocking around at the time, most of which has been forgotten as embarrassing.
I'm not sure this is really true. Wouldn't the British Evangelicals of the 1800s count? My wife's been doing quite a bit of research into that are, and is an avid Anthony Trollope reader -- he apparently had no kind feelings for Evangelicals. But I think that might be what you're talking about in terms of the emergence of Evangelicals as a potent national force. I think the cross-pollination inside of fundamentalism (not capital-F fundamentalism, just... oh, screw it, we need to get some better descriptive terms) is just as important to keep in mind as the nuanced theological differences between Evangelicals and other denominations.
Like, for example, the fact that the Protestant church was uniformly opposed to contraception until the 1930s, when the Church of England moderated its stance. Within two decades, American Protestant traditions had forgotten that it had once been a moral issue at all. Huh?
It's been noted that much of the Church considers "conservatism" to be "The way I remember it." There's a generational sliding window effect that ensures they're just "conserving" what was normative in the past. Contraception, racial discrimination, divorce, etc.

In other news, I think valkyryn and I should just get our own group blog.
posted by verb at 8:49 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have a pulse and boobs? Actually the pulse is optional.

For some the boobs are optional, too.
posted by zarq at 8:51 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


In other news, I think valkyryn and I should just get our own group blog.

For what it's worth, I really miss Growing Up Goddy.
posted by EarBucket at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2010


EarBucket, thanks! Well, sort of thanks, since it's been badly neglected. I think one of the greatest difficulties of that blog has always been the tension inherent in its goal. Figuring out how to write about interesting topics, and capture the experience that I and others like me have had inside that culture, yet not morph into a two-minutes-hate... that's really tough, and it feels a little pointless sometimes.

Knowing that there's interest definitely encourages me to pick up and take another look at it. Thank you.

posted by verb at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2010


Wouldn't the British Evangelicals of the 1800s count?

There's actually some cross-pollination with the Second Great Awakening, but I'm thinking more evangelical with a capital E, i.e. evangelicalism as a vaguely cohesive, inter-denominational, social and cultural force. I don't see that going back much further than the 1950s, when a huge chunk of the American Right, religious and not, seems to have rediscovered its voice for a variety of reasons which are too complicated to go into here.
posted by valkyryn at 9:16 AM on August 2, 2010






Jahaza: "156"Also sex may only occur through a hole in a sheet."

If you believe that, you should just stop talking now. See Snopes for example.


First of all I have to eat humble pie: it is heartbreaking to realize I had believed in racist, made-up bullshit. I'm embarrassed that my ignorance is on display to everyone, yet is good that I finally learned the truth--- I might have gone to my grave believing this so thank God for the internet.

In the Catholic church the only reason to have sex is to have babies.

This is not true. The Catholic Church teaches that sex has two purposes unitive and procreative.


The Catholic church may theoretically teach that sex may also be unitive, however by proscribing condoms and birth control pills any unitive sex (other than sex while pregnant or post menopausal) has a chance of ending in pregnancy.

"verb: "152
Put simply, mainstream American Christian culture has a profoundly fucked up approach to human sexuality, sensuality, and sexual identity.*

I have to disagree with you. The entire Judeo-Christian religion is founded on on a fucked-up approach to human sexuality.
Please note the difference between 'has' and 'is founded on' -- I'm less interested in dissecting the historic sins of Yahwehism than looking at the here and now. That doesn't mean the history isn't interesting, but I'm trying to draw a clear line between people who have moved past that, and people who have "doubled down" on the unhealthy sexuality.
"

Sorry, but you don't get to frame the argument to suit yourself. American Fundaentalism didn't just arise out of thin air-- it is what it is because of the foundations. Fortunately, American Fundamentalism has taken a more enlightened approach to women in some aspects-- outside of some small sects such as the Quiverful Movement there is no injunction against using condoms at least, and some fundamentalists even allow the use of the Pill. Also there is no injunction against teaching women.

I believe that the Jewish and Catholic Hierarchy systematically practiced a form of poisoning the well; the power of the pussy was frightening to the Temple and Church which is a male-based power structure. After all at the end of the day even the most learned, most devote Rabbi shares a pillow with his wife who may have something to say about the way things were interpreted. By painting women as the source of evil and temptation AND by prohibiting women from studying they ensured that men would be inoculated against any crazy ideas women came up with.

So what has this got to do with the poll? As others have posted, why is what teenage girls wear have anything to do with what goes on in the mind of a teenage boy? Fundamentalism has wittingly or unwittingly played into the "Eve as temptress" theory of human sexuality.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2010


Sorry, but you don't get to frame the argument to suit yourself. American Fundaentalism didn't just arise out of thin air-- it is what it is because of the foundations.
I don't think that's a fair characterization of the point I was trying to make, or the thread as it's played out. My point is that in the context of this conversation, I was talking about specific schools of belief and thought. There are certainly reasons why those cultures have grown out of certain belief systems, but other far less objectionable cultures have grown from the same soil. I was trying not to lump everyone (say, the Quakers and their aggressive egalitarianism) with the tainted wackiness of the group that ran the survey.

A thread about the core of misogyny in the major monotheistic religions would certainly be interesting, but this thread and most of the discussion has been about a particular narrow slice of the belief spectrum, and how things play out in it. That's all I was trying to say when I drew the 'is' versus 'is founded on' distinction.
posted by verb at 9:47 AM on August 2, 2010


Since we know that materbation has no ill effects -- why are public health authorities not making statements recommending it?

"Masturbation: it's not a four-letter word, but the president fired me for saying it." - M. Jocelyn Elders

verb, you've done yeoman's work in this thread. thanks.

They're being told that being sexual is in conflict with being empathetic and respectful.

That's one of the most dangerous things I can imagine telling a teenager.


amen.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:26 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


EarBucket : The teacher eventually ruled that it was still wrong, as it meant you were exhibiting a lack of self-control, even if you scrupulously avoided thinking of anything sexual while you jerked off.

My mind keeps trying to figure out the internal monologue that would be going on during such an effort:

"Baseball, Oh... baseball. Neat organized, scores can be summarized in a box, yeah, baseball oh, and they do that 7th inning stretch where the hot dogs race... hot dogs, I saw Susan eating a hot do... NO! Baseball, not good, Football, yes! Football, with the bone crunching hits, and the cheerleaders on the sidelines with the bouncing and the... NO! Cars! Classic cars with their soft curves, flared fenders and hourglass shape... AAAHG OH YES!!"

Thus leading to strange life involving a perversely carnal relationship with automobiles.
posted by quin at 12:40 PM on August 2, 2010


Thus leading to strange life involving a perversely carnal relationship with automobiles.
This actually reminds me of a moment many years ago; a friend and I were both 13 and talking about the serious topic of lust and respecting women and how to avoid objectifying them. No shit, we were a couple of evangelical kids thinking earnlestly about this and it wasn't an attempt to get into somebody's pants.

My friend turned and said thoughtfully, "You know, I know a lot of guys obsess about womens' breasts, or their legs, or things like that. I think that's really dehumanizing. You know what I think is really sexy? A woman's hands."

At the time I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I can look back and facepalm. "Congratulations, evangelical youth groups! You've managed to turn a generation into self-righteous fetishists!"
posted by verb at 1:33 PM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I couldn't quite put my finger on it,

I see what you did there...
posted by MikeMc at 7:28 PM on August 2, 2010


Honestly, I can't decide whether I'm terrified or this is just a swing of the pendulum.

Jews in Ramat Beit Shemesh are wearing niqab and chador, and in Boro Park they're wearing shalim, basically short jilbab to cover their form.

Christian men are being tempted by women's calves. Enough already!

Verb is right. The more fundamentalist groups get, the more the men fetishize things like ankles and wrists. They suddenly can't imagine being alone in a room with a woman without completely losing control of themselves. Which is likely why they believe that atheists or secularists are sexual 24/7. They can't imagine that because most men interact with women on a daily basis, they don't, for the most part, fetishize them to the point of total distraction.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:15 AM on August 4, 2010


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