Hot, Holy & Humorous

Q&A with J: Is Modesty an Issue with Sexual Harassment?

I can’t stop reading and listening to all that’s happening with the #MeToo movement. This is a long overdue, watershed moment, and — as someone who is fiercely concerned about justice — I’m glad to see perpetual perpetrators of harassment and assault get a bit of comeuppance. More importantly, as someone deeply concerned about mercy, I’m glad that there is a shift to seriously investigating and believing credible stories from women and men who’ve been harassed and abused.

Yes, I know among the torrent of genuine allegations, there will be opportunists who make false accusations, those who wrongly equate an inappropriate comment with sexual assault, and those who choose sides based on who’s accused rather than the evidence at hand. And that can be discouraging.

While standing up for the oppressed should unite us, unfortunately it sometimes divides us. And makes us ask exactly how to handle these situations. That’s why I was happy to see an excellent question in my inbox related to what’s been going on. Here’s what the reader asks:

When someone works in an industry that is based on sex, sensuality, and beauty is the line more blurred as to what is appropriate? I really don’t want to discredit anyone or shame them as these stories come forward but they seem so detached from the realities that most of us, who do not use our sexuality to further our careers, live in. There are cases where the line seems hard and fast, like sex with minors, but others seems very blurred. I don’t want to say that women should “stay in their place” because that is not what I mean but it does seem that when you REALLY go as far out as some actresses and models do that you are opening yourself up to issues… I do tend toward thinking that its pretty silly to ask others to treat you with respect when your behavior reflects a lack of self-respect. BUT then I also think that the people who exploit these women are a perverts worth exposing…SO, I am sure you see that my thoughts are a bit tangled!

Statue of woman covering herself with a robe + blog post title

I titled this post “Is Modesty an Issue with Sexual Harassment?” but I want us to think beyond the typical how she’s dressed aspect of modesty. Modesty isn’t just what we wear, but rather “behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency” (Oxford Dictionaries).

So here’s the question: Does lack of modesty open you up to sexual harassment and/or assault? Would demonstrating modesty help us avoid sexual harassment and/or assault? Is talking about modesty in this context “victim blaming”?

Let me first be clear: Under zero circumstances does lack of modesty contribute to rape. It’s rape, people. I don’t care how much she was “asking for it” by how she was dressed or behaved. (Just writing “asking for it” nearly made me throw up — what an abhorrent concept.) I’ve heard many rape stories through the years, and in not one of them was it unclear that the victim did not want to have sex. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a gazillion times: Force is never okay with sex. Never. God’s Word plainly presents sexual intimacy as He designed as to be had within marriage and to be mutual. If someone rapes another person? That‘s all on them.

But these #MeToo stories exist on a continuum, and while rape is the far end, the continuum also includes unwanted touches, aggressive advances, and inappropriate comments. When we’re talking about harassment more than assault, is there something we women can do to discourage that behavior?

As unpopular as this might be, I believe the answer is yes. And that it’s a biblical answer.

Consider Proverbs 7, in which the father warns his son about the “adulterous woman.” When he describes that woman, she’s not behaving modestly:

  • She speaks seductively: “the wayward woman with her seductive words.”
  • She dresses wantonly: “Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.”
  • She harasses him: “She took hold of him and kissed him.”

In the end, “with persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk” (verse 21). Of course, that’s an egregious example (like I said, she thrust herself on him), but it didn’t start with her slamming her lips onto his. It began with her dress, her manner, her seduction. She was conveying a message, and the man in this example received it loud and clear.

Unfortunately, sometimes we women don’t think through or perhaps appreciate what messages we’re sending. And in some circles, “embracing my sexuality” has come to mean displaying your body in public in sexualized ways.

So I understand the confusion of today’s questioner when women are launching complaints against men for treating them like sex objects, but then you go look at what some of these women wore to, say, awards ceremonies and wonder what messages they thought they were sending. (By the way, these aren’t wardrobe choices dictated by a costume designer or movie director; I’m talking about what actresses themselves choose to wear to a work-related event.) Some women also behave provocatively, talk about their sexual desires publicly, and use their sexuality to gain advantages in the workplace.

Is it fair to blatantly use your sexuality for your own gains, but be angry when others view it as a thing to be used as well? Look, it’s not that person’s fault if a harasser doesn’t control their own thoughts or behavior, but at the same time maybe it’s not so surprising that some will abuse that situation.

Let me share a personal story. When I was in my late teens, I went dancing. At the club was a lovely young lady dancing provocatively and wearing a tight, white dress with holes up the sides that exposed her bare skin. Later while I was in the restroom, she was there telling a friend about a stranger moving his hands to her butt while they danced. She exclaimed, “What kind of girl does he think I am?” I recall thinking: You pretty much advertised the kind of girl he thinks you are.

Did her dress and movements give him a right to grope? Of course not! But two truths can exist at once:

  • The sin rests squarely on the shoulders of the sinner. (“God will repay each person according to what they have done,” Romans 2:6.)
  • Our behaviors can encourage respect or disrespect. (“In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything,” 1 Timothy 3:11. This passage is about deacons, but I think it’s true for all believers.)

Now some men would grope a woman wearing a turtle-neck potato sack. However, some do respond to cues in their environment, becoming more assertive when they believe, rightly or wrongly, that the other person is sending a welcoming message.

And through our modesty or lack thereof, we women contribute to the culture around us. And if we’re conveying that we want to be seen not merely as attractive, feminine beings, but truly as sex objects, then we’ve played some part in being treated that way.

Now this is such a fine line to walk. Even as I write this, I know I’m angering someone out there. I myself could argue with points I’ve made taken out of context. But, looking at this in a big-picture and biblical way, it comes down to this: We are each responsible for ourselves. 

I can’t make someone else behave, but I can behave in a way that (hopefully) shows I will not welcome misbehavior on their part. I can’t make someone else respect me, but I can treat myself with respect. I can’t make someone else not sin, but I can choose not to sin myself.

I can't make someone else respect me, but I can treat myself with respect. Click To Tweet

I’m not blaming any victims in the #MeToo movement. Far from it! What I do want, however, is for us to take an honest look at our culture and ask ourselves if there’s anything at all we can do to encourage less harassment and more respect.

Hey, following God’s design for sexuality, keeping the most sensual parts of ourselves inside our marriages, is a good idea anyway. And it might help.

For those who have been victims (that’s pretty much all women), you should request and expect respect. Even if you wish you’d dressed or behaved differently, it still wasn’t okay what the harasser or assaulter did. You have a right to complain and try to change the culture.

At the same time, going forward we can be fully feminine in our dress and behavior while still behaving with modesty. We should do it not merely to stop someone from thinking the wrong thing (which they might do anyway), but because it demonstrates our own self-respect.

And for those of us out here hearing and watching these stories unfold, let’s support victims. As the questioner said, it can feel tangled when you have a scantily clad actress complaining about some powerful guy coming on to her, but the first doesn’t warrant the latter. We can make a case for the benefits of modesty at the same time that we hold harassers and abusers to account for their unscrupulous and predatory behavior.

For more on the #MeToo movement, be sure to listen to our Sex Chat for Christian Wives podcast episode titled “Sexual Harassment #UsToo.”

Sexual Harassment

118 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Is Modesty an Issue with Sexual Harassment?”

  1. As the latest men have been dropped from their employers like hot potatoes in light of the hefty settlements recently awarded , it was the companies fault in harboring these creeps while exploiting their talents for financial share of the market . When it looked like the company would lose more money than gain out went the creeps.

    1. Yep. Too many times, it was the perspective of catering to “The Talent” — a crazy belief that the “star” can get away with nearly anything because he/she is the one helping out the bottom line. I reject the idea that we cannot locate people who can be both successful and non-harassing. That’s not too much to ask!

  2. J, you are brave indeed to dare insinuate that women have any responsibility in this whole affair. I predict more than a few hate-filled comments and emails coming your way claiming that you are blaming the victims (even though you stated cleared that you are not).

    Honestly, I couldn’t have said it better. Each person is responsible for their thoughts and actions, regardless of the actions of others. Our culture has given women unprecedented freedom, but with freedom comes responsibility.

    Like you said, some men (and women) will grope or harass or rape regardless of the signals they receive. However, because of the culture of sexual immorality and promiscuity there are a whole lot of women that are intentionally sending sexual messages to men because they want that kind of attention, and many men that want sex are responding in kind. We can’t be surprised when a man responds to the same kind of signals that he previously responded to with other women (and was happily and enthusiastically welcomed by them), and this time found the women unreceptive.

    Is it right? Is it moral? Is it what God wants? No, no, and no. But this is our culture now. Men shouldn’t grope or talk dirty or any of those things with a woman who isn’t his wife, and if he does it’s sin regardless of whether the woman wanted or invited it. If a woman dresses and acts provocatively then I believe that is also sin regardless of whether it attracts sexual attention from a man.

    Bottom line is this: as Christian men we shouldn’t talk dirty to women, sexually touch women, have sex with women, or be sexual at all with women who we aren’t married to. Christian women shouldn’t act or talk to dress in any way that knowingly attracts attention from a man who isn’t your husband. Break any of these “rules” and I believe you are outside the will of God.

  3. Very well put. You addressed some issues I was having with this as well. I struggle with what some are calling sexual harrassment (should catcalling really qualify you to share a me too hashtag and if so, doesn’t that take away from the seriousness of those who have been raped?). Ive also been struggling with guys who thought they were flirting or complimenting a woman and was labeled with sexual harrassment as a result. I’m not excusing the behavior or implying perpetrators should be let off. But I’ve been a little cautious because those types of accusations are very serious and often end ministry, families and marriages. For example, we work with kids and if we are accused of something (even if completely false) our job is instantly suspended, investigations are made and it goes on our records…even if nothing happened and we are cleared, there’s a high possibility we won’t be able to get our job back. So I guess I hope that the real stories are followed through and those responsible pay so that it doesn’t happen again. I also hope that women don’t take this as an opportunity to bring up false charges (or very, very minor ones).

    Anyways, all that to say, this really helped clear some muddy waters. Thank you! And yes, I’ve been sexually harrassed. I was staying over night with very conservative, christian friends, and their son hid a camera in the bathroom before I went in to shower. Thankfully, I found it. But the video got deleted and his parents refused to do anything about it (such as recovering the video) because their son is “perfect”. They choose to believe his lies. The 15 year old boy got off the hook, and there’s no way to bring up charges now. I pray God has worked in his life since then! My heart breaks for the struggle he must have been going through and the fact his parents refused to help him for fear of looking bad to others.

    1. Yeah, I don’t believe all #MeToo stories are the same. The vast number of them shows that we have a lot of work to do in our culture, but I wouldn’t begin to equate the incident of a teacher making inappropriate comments to me when I was a high school student with girls who have been raped. To me, that would be like comparing a slap to a stabbing — they’re both violence that need to be dealt with, but one is clearly more harmful.

      And ick on the shower thing! How could his parents not believe you when the evidence was right there?! Ugh.

  4. As a male, survivor/victim of sexual abuse and husband and father, All the media coverage has triggered me, made me sad, angry, frustrated and torn because I too have struggled with the same questions raised in your post today. I also have looked to the scriptures to calm my broken heart.
    Thank you for putting things into words what I think many are feeling. While I hope some read your post and rethink certain attitudes, sadly I fear it will fall mainly on deaf ears.
    True we have rights, but in today’s world these rights are exercised with out regard to anyone else and with the mind set that there should be no consequences.
    Truly a fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3 says : “the love of the greater number will cool off”.
    Thank you for your post.

    1. Oh Michael, that breaks my heart that abuse ever happened to you. It happens to too many, and too often the male victims get ignored or sidelined. But sexual abuse is never okay, for anyone. I pray that you find peace and calm in this storm. Thank you speaking up here.

  5. Well done, J!
    I’m fascinated that the only perps who are still working are politicians! Everyone else gets summarily fired!

  6. Wow!! This is a pretty sensitive topic and I appreciate your courage in tackling it. I don’t really think the issue needs to focus on what women wear. I think the issue is to teach men to not sexually harass, assault or rape women. I think it’s truly that simple because otherwise it seems to me to fit into the narrative that men are sexually-crazed beings who can’t help themselves which I think it inadvertently disrespects men.

    The little I know about men who sexually harass and assault is that it’s not about sex, rather it is about power and control.
    Yes, a woman might dress in a way that “invites” sexual attention. The woman in the club with the form-fitting dress might have more men approach her than the woman wearing a Laura Ashley jumper, but a man with intentions to possibly engage with her sexually will understand and accept her rejection if she’s not interested. He will be a gentleman and walk away. A man who is predatory will not accept her rejection and may harass or assault her. I think that is the difference: predatory intent.

  7. I read your title and thought about it for a few minutes before reading what you actually wrote, and had pretty much the same thoughts. It comes down to respect. Am I dressing in a way that shows self-respect? I think a lot of guys respect a woman that respects herself. And of course there are jerks who don’t.

  8. Thing is, I’m not sure how much modesty really helps, though (after all, churches are as rife with sex scandals as any other place). I mean, even if somehow, overnight, our entire culture shifted and suddenly all women everywhere dressed and behaved modestly according to your standard, that still wouldn’t change anything. All that would have changed would be that the goal posts had moved. At one time, if a women showed a flash of ankle, THAT was considered immodest. And guess what? Even back then, when women were expected to be far more covered up than today, there was STILL rape, women were STILL harassed, rape/sexual harassment is not a modern invention. If modesty worked the way you think it does in deterring misbehavior, then surely rape/sexual harassment would not have been a problem in the past. The fact that it WAS (and still is) a problem shows, I think, that more modesty is not what we need. If it didn’t work before, why would it work now? Something else needs to change.

    “I’m not blaming any victims in the #MeToo movement.” Ehhhhh . . . be honest, you kind of are. Just a little. At least own up to it. Once, just ONCE, I would like to see a Christian writer unequivocally denounce sexual misconduct, WITHOUT blaming or shaming the victims in any way. Telling victims to they should “be more modest, or you’ll send the wrong signal and encourage misbehavior” isn’t fundamentally different from telling them, “you were asking for it.” It’s just been sugarcoated to make the message more palatable, but the core remains the same.

    1. I entirely reject the notion that I’m blaming victims. I’m not sugarcoating anything, and I take offense at the suggestion that I am still saying “you were asking for it.” If you read the post thoroughly and with an open mind, you’d see how deeply I care about the victims of assault, abuse, and harassment. The core of my message is justice for the abusers and mercy for the victims.

      But yes, I also agree that rape, assault, and harassment would still exist no matter what women wore or how they behaved. That’s why I distinguished predators (of which they are too many) and those who will jump at a chance if they feel they’ve been given a green light. You can reason with or prevent the latter, but the former are scum who need to be stopped regardless. I honestly don’t know how to make that clearer.

      1. Problem is, I DID read it thoroughly the first time and still found it wanting. I understand perfectly what you’re saying, and it is very different from what you think you’re saying. In what way, precisely, is telling women to cover up or else they up their risk of being sexually assaulted functionally different from telling someone who HAS been sexually assaulted that they were “asking for it,” because of what they were wearing or where they were? Tell me, I want to know.

        1. Perhaps you could read the comments from all the people who got exactly what I was saying. For instance, I NEVER told women “to cover up or else they up their risk of being sexually assaulted.” In fact, I actually said that rape is never, ever, ever about the victim’s modesty. I said that harassment and assault were different. I said the sin was squarely on his shoulders.

          I know that many Christian leaders have tried to make the point that the responsibility is hers — that if a woman doesn’t dress modestly, then she’s somehow responsible for his lusting after her or (God forbid!) forcefully acting on his lust. And I’m saddened that women have felt that burden on them, when it was never theirs to bear! But I can’t take ownership for what all of those people said, only the case I make here. And it’s not that any woman is “asking for it.” I fully believe that the sin of harassment and abuse are entirely on the perpetrator. But when asked if modesty can play a part in promoting a culture of respect for women, I think it’s undeniably true.

          1. Just pointing out that just because a bunch of people in the comments agree with you doesn’t mean you can’t all be wrong together.

            You seem to be confusing lust with harassment and assault. A woman can certainly dress in ways that tone down her sex appeal, but most of the time assault and harassment isn’t about sex appeal. It’s about power.

            That being the case, how is bringing up modesty when discussing sexual assault and harassment helpful or relevant? We’re not talking about lust here. We’re talking about abuses of power and ways victims have been silenced over the years (accusations of immodesty being, of course, one of the oldest tricks in the book).

            TBH, the original question comes across as “Yeah, these guys are bad, but with the careers these women pursued and some of the choices they’ve made, I kinda feel they brought it on themselves. Am I wrong?” Your response — including your comments about dressing in a way that doesn’t “encourage” certain behavior — comes across in a way that I don’t think you intended.

            On a final note, it might be worth looking into Terry Crews’ experience, as well as that of other men who have been harassed and assaulted. Maybe you’ll still feel the modesty argument applies to them too, I don’t know. Definitely worth reading about, though.

          2. I pointed out the other comments, because my message came across to most but not all. And I was just saying that others understood what I was conveying.

            And I’m not confusing lust with assault. I made that clear. As for harassment, it runs th gamut on what that includes. And yes, I think sometimes immodest behavior by someone prompts an otherwise ready person to behave inappropriately. Does harassment happen without that? Absolutely! Indeed, it’s most of the time, as we can see from the stories. But as my example indicates, I’m not sure that guy on the dance floor would have moved his hands to the girl’s behind if she’d been dressed like I was. Maybe he still would have! But maybe not.

            And I hear this all the time: that sexual misconduct is purely about power. I think it’s mostly true, but there are other ways to express power over someone. So why sexually? Some people join their power trips with their lustful desires, and yes, the result is truly horrible. (Now, in these instances, I don’t think modesty is an issue at all, because it is fueled by power…but it’s not just power.)

            And yes, I’ve heard about Terry Crews’ experience. Terrible incident. And a reminder that men can be victims too.

            I just really want people to read what I actually said, rather than make assumptions about things that I didn’t address in this particular post. If people want a “harassers are jerks” post, believe me…I can do that! My friends and family have heard me ranting quite a lot in the last few months.

          3. Regarding the notion that sexual harassment and sexual assault is primarily about power:

            This is a theory that has been parroted over and over again, and I just don’t buy it. I have no doub that sometimes this is the case, but I find it hard to believe that most or even a majority of cases are mainly about a man wanting to feel powerful. No, I don’t believe that for a second and it jut doesn’t make logical sense to me. It’s primarily about lust and it’s sometimes enabled by power.

          4. I think it is about power, because harassments and assaulters wouldn’t do it if they didn’t think they had the power to get away with it. And if you look at the stories that have come out, they are almost all about men using their positions of power to lure or abuse women. That said, I think there’s a lust component, because if it was just about power, it could involve other aspects like physical abuse or belittling someone.

          5. I don’t agree. Power is just a means by which these men in Hollywood or in places of employment use to harass, but if there wasn’t a lust component as the primary driver, there wouldn’t be an action in the first place. Not all harrassment is from men in power. It happens from coworkers or even strangers. Harrassment is by men who want to have sexual with men they are attracted to.

          6. I don’t think the degrees we’re apart on this issue are worth continuing to debate, honestly. I’d say we’ll have to agree to disagree on where we each ended up. Okay?

      2. J I don’t think you are intentionally blaming victims however, in your entire essay you did not mention ANYTHING about men not harassing, assaulting or raping women and because of that it gives the impression of blaming women. Hopefully you don’t receive this as an attack but that is the impression you give even if that is not your intent. When these discussions come up, men and women will point to the “need” for women to dress modestly especially in Christian circles, but the need for men to not treat women in an abusive way is mentioned only as a side note if at all. I think that is the problem.

        1. This is very frustrating, because YES, I said that!

          “This is a long overdue, watershed moment, and — as someone who is fiercely concerned about justice — I’m glad to see perpetual perpetrators of harassment and assault get a bit of comeuppance.”
          “Let me first be clear: Under zero circumstances does lack of modesty contribute to rape. It’s rape, people…. If someone rapes another person? That‘s all on them.”
          “The sin rests squarely on the shoulders of the sinner.”
          “For those who have been victims (that’s pretty much all women), you should request and expect respect. Even if you wish you’d dressed or behaved differently, it still wasn’t okay what the harasser or assaulter did. You have a right to complain and try to change the culture.”
          “We can make a case for the benefits of modesty at the same time that we hold harassers and abusers to account for their unscrupulous and predatory behavior.”

          Perhaps I didn’t say it exactly the way some want, because the purpose of this post was to answer a specific question. But I have vehemently opposed sexual harassment and abuse in all its forms, no matter who does it. Just in the last couple of months, I’ve been posting a lot about this on Facebook:

          And I’ve written about the problem that too many women face of being sexual harassed in their lives here: Your Wife Has Been Sexually Harassed

          I will happily do a post on how men should step up and treat women with respect. However, (1) this was a Q&A post, and I was answering the question, and (2) the majority of my readers are women. Please keep that in mind.

          1. J was so abundantly clear about this, that I almost wonder if people are unable to use reading comprehension on a subject as emotionally charged as this.

            As a side note, from my perspective all we hear about is how bad women are constantly sexually harassed and how negatively it affects them. This is one of the only times I’ve ever heard anyone dare to ask women to consider their part in all of this. As a man, it feels like all I’m told is that women are completely innocent victims in every single sexual encounter in the world, and that any and all mistakes, misunderstandings, sins, or wrongdoings are always completely the fault of men.

            This is pretty much what our culture says to men now and I’m genuinely surprised that anyone would think it’s the opposite. I guess our perspectives as men and women differ so much that sometimes all we can see is our own plight.

          2. Okay, now I feel like you’re hearing something that I didn’t say. The reason this #MeToo movement is a watershed moment is because it’s past time for us all, including men, to hear about how widespread sexual harassment (mostly of women) is and how it negatively affects them. Most of the women who have spoken out tell stories of behaving with propriety, and yet some jerk still thought he could use his position of power to harass the victim. I encourage you to read these two important posts by fellow marriage bloggers I respect:
            Wifey Wednesday: Thoughts on #MeToo
            Why #MeToo Matters

    2. If women dressing immodestly “triggered” the male species into behaving badly, would not the women belonging to certain African tribes who wear just the loincloths be harassed and raped all the time ?

      1. But that’s going back to the “dressing immodestly,” and I talking about modesty in terms of how you present yourself within your culture. Women in loincloths in some African tribe are not presenting themselves as the woman I described in Proverbs 7. Who, by the way, might not have been showing a lot of skin, but rather dressed in other recognizable ways. (E.g., Genesis 38:15 says Judah believed Tamar to be a prostitute because she had covered her face with a veil.) Certainly, we have to take culture into account, and what dress or behavior is immodest in one is not necessarily immodest in another.

      2. I’m not sure if this comment is meant to be satire or if you just don’t have a lot of knowledge of African culture (either way is ok), but African women do live in an actual rape culture. Look at statistics for rape in Africa and you will be shocked.

        1. Yes, that’s true. But I think the idea is that it’s not really the dress, but other factors in the culture.

          1. The rape culture in Africa as a whole is definitely more than just dress, but so is modesty. I’m just saying that Africa is a terrible example.

          2. You’re absolutely right and I agree that context is essential. I’m just not sure that the way a culture dresses can ever be discounted. For example, cultures that wear next to no clothing as a common practice doesn’t necessarily mean that they are still being modest. I think it’s possible that the bar on modesty in such cultures is just way lower. For example, would you say that any given tribal culture that culturally allows near nudity as a practice would be considered just as modest as a culture that practices covering up the body and tolerating only a small amount of skin to be shown?

          3. So let me put this into a situation that’s not one extreme versus the other: I grew up in a beach town. It was 90-degrees in my hometown for about 9 months of the year, which meant that we spent a lot of time at the ocean, the lake, the pool … pretty much anywhere you could cool off. When I started living in places where that wasn’t the climate, I discovered that some people were way more worried about youth seeing each other in swimsuits. And that was so weird to us, because our youth group went to the beach together and most of us were like brothers and sisters more than romantic interests. I’d not saying no guy noticed a girl in her swimsuit, but it didn’t mean that she was behaving seductively or that guys would in turn behave inappropriately. But I can see now that dressing in swimsuits or spaghetti-strapped sundresses or a tank top and shorts might have a different effect on someone who didn’t grow up with the constant goal of trying to keep from melting into a pile of sweat.

          4. I think your example is a good one to talk about, but here is a question I will pose:
            Was everyone you grew up around culturally insulated because they had grown up with showing skin all the time, or where they merely desensitized to it?

            Let me ask another way in another scenario:
            If you grew up in a culture where it was extremely common for people to physically fight all the time over the absolute smallest difference of opinion, and you and everyone you knew fought all the time, would it still be wrong to get into fist fights over small arguments? In other words, just because you are very used to something to the point that you don’t think about it and it doesn’t shock you or affect you deeply every time you see it, does that mean that its ok?

            I think the same principle applies to modesty, porn, violence, or any other thing of the sort. We as humans because desensitized to sin all too easily, but that doesn’t mean that even a drop of it isn’t still bad.

          5. I think degree matters when we have these discussions. So of course, I can say there’s some line at which it’s a bad idea no matter what. I’m merely saying here that context/culture matters. That’s it.

          6. Yes I agree that context and degree matter for sure. I just think it’s important to point out in this discussion on sexual harassment that many times both parties contributed to the situation, even if the degree to which one party was “responsible” vastly outweighs the other.

            This is important because we can’t control or change what another person does, we can only control and change what we ourselves do. If I’m in my car and I’m not wearing my seatbelt, and someone runs a red light and hits me, we are both wrong. Obviously the person that ran the red light was “more” wrong, but it’s against the law to not wear a seatbelt and it’s extremely reckless because it greatly increases the chance that you will be killed in the event that another careless driver acts badly.

            I think this is how we should think in terms of sexual dealings. If you know that being immodest in dress or action (even if in your heart you think that you aren’t intentionally trying to attract sexual attention) is going to increase your chance of being sexually harassed then it’s foolish to do so. This isn’t even consisting whether you should act and dress modestly because it’s the Godly thing to do, which I think is the case.

          7. Funny that you used that analogy, since exactly one month before the seatbelt law in Texas, I was a victim in a hit-and-run accident. While the driver’s side got the most impact, I was the one whose head hit the windshield (from the passenger seat) because I hadn’t buckled up. And yeah, it was completely the other vehicle’s fault…100%. All witnesses agreed to that one! But I see your point.

          8. I’ll remember to stay away from vehicle accident analogies for your sake in the future then ?. I’m glad you’re alright, and please do buckle up.

    3. Helen, what you say strikes a chord with me. As a rape survivor, I have a hard time with this topic.

      Here’s where I’m coming from: When I was raped, I was dressed provocatively, I was coming on to the guys, and I was drunk. For a long time, I blamed myself for what happened. The way I saw it, I put myself in the situation. I was asking for it. If he’d asked, I would have consented–but when I passed out, I lost the opportunity to say either yes or no.

      It took me some time to be able to name the experience as rape. Even then, I carried a lot of self-blame. It was years before I was able to say, “It wasn’t my fault” and actually believe it. I know I didn’t cause my own rape; the man who raped me caused the rape. When I read articles and posts about what women could’ve done differently, I still have an initial visceral reaction of defensiveness. I experienced that a bit as I was reading this post.

      At the same time, I would be fooling myself to think that my words, clothing, and actions played absolutely no role in what happened. In my case, they sent some pretty clear messages. I literally was asking for it–not for rape, but for sex. I am positive that if I had been dressed differently and hadn’t been coming on to all the guys that the night would have ended very differently for me. It is too much to say that I had any responsibility for the choice that man made–but I did contribute to the situation. I don’t know what the right word is. “Responsibility” isn’t it, but different choices on my part would have led to a different outcome.

      One of the things I have been thinking about this is the word “and.” We often look at this as either/or. EITHER I was asking for it OR it was all his fault. Instead, I look at it this way: I put myself in that situation AND he was wrong. Both of these things are true for my story.

      My mind agrees with what J has said here. My feelings aren’t all the way there yet.

      1. Oh, Chris… I hate that any victim blames herself for such a horrible, criminal act. I have great sympathy for those situations, but I fully admit that I haven’t been in that place so I can’t speak to what that feels like. Knowing more of your story, I know, yet again, that the signals were quite clear that you did not agree to have sex — whatever had happened before — so the assault is all on him.

        That said, you make a good point about doing our part to simply stay safe and demonstrate that we expect respect from others. Thank you for speaking from your own experience.

      2. Chris, I can only say that you have a huge amount of emotional and intellectual maturity to say what you just said, being that you went through such a terrible experience. I know that many people still won’t hear what you are saying, but it’s the truth.

        I’ve been wronged sexually in the past as well, and yet I acknowledge that in so many ways I played a key role in what happened to me. I could have prevented it all if I’d been acting in accordance with the Holy Spirit instead of playing with fire. Just because I was also at fault for the things I did doesn’t mean that I wasnt sinned againstand hurt. Accepting that isn’t “blaming the victim”, it’s seeing reality for what it is instead of what we wish it was.

  9. Excellent job J! I agree totally. I’ve come to realize there is a difference between “inappropriate” and “harassment”. Thy boy is high school who included details of how my breasts looked in a non-revealing top I wore, along with the college professor who complimented me in a leering fashion…both inappropriate—but I have not considered it harassment as I could walk away without consequence. The relative who came in my room in the night—more so, but a threat from me to tell scared him enough he never came back. I remember all of these incidents and have used my experience to caution my daughters. I also train them to behave and dress modestly. Using scripture as our life-instruction manual will not keep us from the world and it’s sins, but will guide us in our responsibilities as we navigate through it.

  10. I left another comment. I meant to leave my name, but somehow I ended up anonymous. Anyway. I knew you’d get criticized for this post, and you have already. I just want to add that I think it’s perfectly fine to say to women that we live in a sick world where some men will want misuse them. So what can they arm themselves with as a deterrent? And bring up modesty as an idea? I really think that’s ok to say.

    1. Thanks, Ashley. I admit that it will not deter the real predators (of course not), but it’s perhaps a discouragement to those who might otherwise be on the fence. And regardless, we should be modest for our own benefit.

  11. Thanks for tackling this topic, J. Having been sexually abused as a boy, I really feel for those who have been victims of this. And thanks for pointing out that modesty is much more than dress. Having taught in public high schools since 1983, I have seen huge changes in dress and behavior. And the two go hand in hand. If someone dresses provocatively, you can bet their conversation and actions will probably also be provocative.

    Here’s my problem with modesty among Christian women. The reality is that many women are fashion followers. But the fashions they follow often are intentionally sexually suggestive. We often say that a woman dresses “attractively.” Attractive to whom? Is her attire attractive in the sense that is lovely fabric and a feminine style? Or is it designed to promote sexual attraction? In that case, keep it for her husband in private.

    I know someone is thinking, I guess we all have to wear burqahs now. That’s not the point. No. Women don’t have to give up comfortable yoga pants (I believe that got addressed in this or another blog I follow), but come on, ladies. When you go out in public wearing something that leaves little to the imagination, you are not being modest.

    One more point. When a man is sexually frustrated, his body chemistry is pouring out testosterone, which heightens his awareness of sexual stimuli. Now a godly man will discipline his eyes, and his thoughts, and he will certainly not act on it, but during the long time I was sexually refused, I was shocked at myself. I was aware of all kinds of things that normally wouldn’t have even been on my radar. And now that our sex life is back on track, those things are again off the radar.

    Please no one accuse me of letting men who abuse and harass off the hook. But remember that if they aren’t Christians, they don’t have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. He is the only one Who can transform a man and make him able to withstand temptation, sexual or othewise. Ladies, please help your men out by maintaining sexual intimacy, by modest dress and behavior, and by setting good examples for other women. And men need to speak out against sexual offenders, and take action when possible.

    1. I have a great friend who says it like this: It’s his mind, his heart, and his responsibility, but c’mon, help a guy out! And she dresses quite fashionably and modestly. 🙂

  12. Great post. Really appreciate that you broaden the definition of modesty far beyond clothes.

    I hope as it pans out, that the #metoo movement draws attention to the big picture: a culture that trains men from pre-adolescence to evaluate women as sex objects and somehow wants them to be feminists too, that gives huge incentives for women to share, use, and obsessively maintain their bodies, that severs sex from any context of commitment (much less childbearing), that at once defends all desires and then shames people for the consequences.

    I want to see abusers and predators brought to justice and victims heard, but only if we can look at their cases and recognize ourselves, our family members and friends, all of us who feel the pull of this horrible fallen culture. If we single out certain types to bear the blame for the rest of us and focus on how perverse and evil they are, washing our hands of it when they’re fired or shamed enough, we miss how deep the sickness goes.

    I hope that in Christ we can stop framing this as men vs women, cutting down each other’s confusion and pain, and just mourn with those who mourn! We are one in Christ and we need each other to recognize and face these evils!

  13. Perhaps we should wonder why a society that so avidly supports LGBTQ and hookup culture is suddenly so offended by sexual harassment? I listened to a 2012 interview of Katie Couric. She was asked what was the most annoying thing about her 15 years working with Matt Lauer. She replied, “He would always pinch my ass!” The audience broke out in laughter. They thought it was hilarious. And she obviously never said anything about it. I suspect this whole #MeToo movement is political in nature and nothing other than a strategy of using the media to work the public up into a frenzy, hoping to ultimately oust Trump — a known offender. But that doesn’t mean some good discussion can’t come out of it as your post demonstrates.

    1. Plenty of us have been long offended by sexual harassment. Unfortunately, the culture as a whole overlooked or even supported those who did it. It happened behind closed doors, it was whispered about in hallways, and it was kept secret by victims who didn’t know what to do with the information and felt certain they wouldn’t be taken seriously. I do think the political situation has contributed to “why now?” but this moment is long overdue. Please, guys, believe me when I say that women have been dealing with this for a very long time, and we didn’t speak up then because the climate didn’t support accusers.

      The saddest part of that whole story is that the Church did not support accusers through the years. Just look at all the religious leaders accused of sexual misconduct in the past several decades. Why didn’t we take a strong stand that led the way? Ah, it happens again that I have a lovers quarrel with the Church…

      1. No doubt this has long been an issue and the climate didn’t support accusers, but that does not free women from the responsibility to “cry out” as God illustrates in Deuteronomy 22:23-25. One woman’s silence may enable a perpetrator to harass or molest others, or worse. We must teach our daughters to scream, yell, or tell. They must be taught to fear the ramifications of silence more than the ramifications of speaking out. As for the Church, I once attended a large mega church that also had a large school. After one older woman spoke out about an event that had happened to her many years earlier as a young girl at the school by the founding Pastor, a multitude of other older women came forth with similar stories. It turns out even some parents knew the Pastor had molested their daughters, but they had kept silent so as “not to harm the ministry of God!” We must not wait until it is politically correct to speak out against evil.

        1. I agree that we need to train women to speak up, or “cry out,” just as the verses you mentioned indicate. What God’s Word also shows with that passage, and others, is that it’s important to build a community that will respond to a woman crying out with mercy for the victim and justice for the perpetrator. Unfortunately, our culture hasn’t supported many of these women in the past, so it’s no wonder they didn’t “cry out.” When you don’t think you’ll be believed or that you’ll actually experience a negative consequence yourself, why speak up? That’s where many victims have been for a long while.

          But as I said in today’s post (Saturday), we as Christians should lead the way in how things should go.

  14. I think of it in terms of robbery. If a bank is robbed, who is to blame? The thief, of course. The bank owner is never responsible for the fact that he was robbed.

    But what if the bank owner left the door unlocked? The their still knows that it’s robbery. He still knows it is against the law…just because the door was unlocked does not mean that he has a right to take the treasure of the bank. Yet if the bank owner had kept the door locked, perhaps put up an alarm system, the thief may have been deterred.

    It’s not about women “asking for it”. That is never a valid reason or excuse. Abuse in anyway is NEVER okay. But the fact remains that regardless of what you wear there are those who will try to take advantage of you. So if you dress one way, it’s like leaving the bank door unlocked. Is it okay in that situation for the thief to come in? Nope. If you dress another way, the door is locked and an alarm system is in place. Is it okay for the thief to break in? Nope. And perhaps because of the exta precautions taken, he will be deterred and much heartache spared.

    1. Interesting analogy. And yeah, plenty of thieves will just break in anyway, because that’s what they came for … so I don’t want to suggest that women behaving modestly will somehow stop the harassment and abuse. It won’t stop it all, because that’s not why it’s happening to begin with. BUT some will be deterred when they meet a barrier. And again, regardless, we should all behave modestly (men too!) because it’s the right and respectful way to carry ourselves in the world.

  15. J, I started to email you on this subject just days before you posted it, and I’m glad you did. It is absolutely, 100% crystal clear, and in fact addresses a lot of what I had intended to bring up and ask you to comment on. I don’t quite get what some readers are misconstruing in your post, and few thing are more frustrating than being told, “but you didn’t address this _______” when you did, in print no less. “So what you’re really saying is ___________” is another ‘favorite’ of mine, especially when it isn’t what we’re saying, or sometimes even thinking, at all. I don’t understand it, and I guess I never will…but it’s good people will talk about it at least.

    Anyway, moving along, it’s hard for me to know, as a man, which aspect of this whole….scandal?…
    slew of revelations?…. suspicions?…. I’m not even sure what to call it…. the whole thing! There. What bothers me the most about it? The treatment and abuse of women, or even men when it applies? The fuel for the stereotype that all men are monsters, only think about sex, have or will commit such acts, or all three? As for the cloud of suspicion this puts men under, I guess it bothers me because I have quite a vivid imagination, especially when it comes to sex. Guilty as charged. But am I guilty of any sort of infidelity? Ask my wife. She would defend me better than I ever could.

    I have to give Oprah credit here, because she once (and I’m sure more than once) went over line by line, what rape is, and what it is not. First of all, most of us know, rape is an act of violence first, an act of sexual misconduct second – though the intimate violation makes the violence immeasurably worse. What rape is NOT, is persuading, coaxing, convincing, or even light heartedly teasing an initially reluctant partner into submission, or saying “yes” to making love. (Primarily thinking of married couples, but mainly focusing on consent or lack thereof.). I would even say, it is not “playfighting” , or even tussling, or even necessarily rougher stuff than that, as long as in the end you both agree you want to share the experience, and as long as the option to say “no” is present and respected.

    If my choice of words isn’t perfect, it’s the best I can do right now, and of course, feel free to amend (this is your blog after all!). I think it is clear the time is way past when we need to lay it out line by line. Again. And again for as many times as it takes, until people understand. Thanks for taking the time to confront such an emotionally charged but necessary subject.

    1. You make some good points here. One thing I think that’s difficult in this whole topic is that not everyone seems to get what harassment is. Take the stories of Louis CK and Al Franken, who didn’t fully seem to get that what they were doing was sexual harassment! I believe there are some men who think they’re “persuading, coaxing, convincing …. teasing,” but what they’re really doing is harassing women. It’s in this area, however, that I think we can make the most progress, because if men will listen to these stories, they will hear that no, women don’t like X and they need to think about what really communicates respect to a woman.

      1. I agree, J. I believe us men in particular need to be extra careful not to just hear what we want to hear, when a woman is saying “no” or “stop”. It’s a fine line for sure. We want to be free, in Christ above all, in discussions such as here. And I don’t think the current social/ political climate helps with true freedom to engage like that. At best it may be forcing us to confront what has too long been ignored.

      2. The hardest thing about men understanding what harassment is, is that the definition is extremely vague. As far as I can tell, the only sure thing that seems to be the determining factor to make something harassment is the word “unwanted”. But in this culture of sexual depravity, the same exact actions from the same exact man could be welcomed by some women. In other words, it all depends on the woman he tries it on, so it all comes down to a feeling. Well, that’s just not good enough.

        I think that there need to be well defined rules that have nothing to do with feelings. Either an action is acceptable or it isn’t. Women that play along and welcome behavior of this type with open arms muddy the water. Everyone has to play by the same set of rules. So the question is, what are those rules? What’s allowed in the workplace? What’s allowed on the street? Are we prepared to judge women who welcome that kind of behavior because they happen to be attracted to the guy just as harshly as a man would be judged? These are the questions to ask as a society in my opinion.

        1. I don’t know that you can define it as much as you’re saying. Perhaps it’s more about not taking action without honestly considering how it affects the other person and be willing to hear no. And then take that at face value. I admit that the line can be squishy, but I think a good number of men can get the message just from all these stories of what most women really don’t want.

          And yeah, I’m entirely prepared to judge a female harasser or assaulter just the way I would a man. It matters none to me, personally, whether the perpetrator is male or female, seemingly powerful or not powerful, Democrat or Republican, or even proclaimed Christian or proclaimed atheist. I can’t speak for anyone else, but that’s where I land: If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

          1. Well, what I think men are confused about in some instances is what that line is. I’m not talking about pretty obvious behavior like groping a woman’s breast or butt out of nowhere. I think any man knows that isn’t acceptable.

            What about the more subtle things like innuendo or staring, or light touches on the arm? All of these things have poppped up on the #metoo movement right beside straight up rape, and I think some men aren’t realizing that it’s wrong because many women reciprocate if they happen to be attracted to the man. I saw a study that said 14-19% of married couples met at work, so I don’t think we can pretend that sexual advances are always unwelcome by women in the workplace. So I honestly don’t know what men are supposed to think in these more nuanced situations.

          2. Yeah, I hear you. A few of the complaints I’ve seen appear rather minor to me. If some guy hugs me, and they don’t mean anything by it but I’m comfortable, that’s not harassment. But I should speak up about what I don’t want or avoid hugging in the future.

        2. It’s really not that hard. Is she a minor? If yes – It’s harassment. Is the your employee or your junior, such that she could have any reason to fear that rebuff will impact her career in any way? If yes – it’s harassment. Is she your student? If yes – it’s harassment. Do you have power over her in any way – if yes. It’s harassment.

          And the most important part – are you repeating the behavior? If she’s told you with her body language, manner or words that the interaction is unwelcome – it’s harassment. If a male colleague brushes your arm once and you shrug him off – inappropriate, but forgivable. If he does that sort of thing for several weeks now it no sign of interest or reciprocation on her part – it’s harassment. Just like tripping a guy once is an accident. Tripping him every time you see him for weeks or months is bullying.

          A student has made inappropriate advances/ comments about my mother/ drawn a penis in my class before. I told him off (this is 3 different students BTW) and made him aware that that was NOT ok. Under Title IX, those things are violations; it makes the learning environment uncomfortable for me (the TA) and the other female students. But I didn’t report them for harassment, because it was a one time offense.
          I did report the postdoc who made aggressive sexual advances despite being told 3 times that I’m not interested because 1) my senior and technically above me in the university hierarchy and 2) he didn’t take no for and answer

          1. Alchemist, I agree with many of the things you said here, but I think it gets a whole lot more grey when you talk about anyone with power over the woman. So, if it’s harrassment anytime a man asks a woman out on a date or flirts if he is her senior or boss or “has power over her”, are we prepared to judge any woman who is a man’s junior or employee if she makes a pass on him? Because this happens far more than some people realize and I feel that if we only put responsibility on the person “with power” then we’re sending very mixed signals. If we just make it a rule that you can’t make passes at your boss or employee or anyone else that isn’t on the same level as you then I agree.

  16. We need to keep in mind, too, that the waters get muddy real fast when infidelity runs rampant, as it is in wider and wider swaths. I began this part of the discussion giving more attention to the consensual aspects of these interactions, but at some point you have to bring it back to marital loyalty (fidelity). No doubt spouse abuse occurs too frequently too, but the problem has grown way, way beyond the old boundaries, and the days when even philanderers would only go so far. Not that things were always better in the old days, or we wouldn’t be in this current mess – but it was different time, and in some ways, yes it was better.

    And yeah, I don’t care who does it to who. Wrong is wrong, and scripture does say when sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people commit themselves to do evil. Ecclesiastes 8:11. It breeds fast. We have to care about justice, passionately, even as we minister grace to all we meet.

    1. Wayne, I’m sure it was better before, and then before that it was worse, and before that it was better. My point being that when you study history, culture and morality tend to swing on a pendulum. I’m not a big believer in “the good ol’ days” myself, because sometimes those were good days for some but awful for others or things were just more hidden at the time. Unfortunately, we don’t have data for these things to make good comparisons. In the end, I suppose I’m where the writer of Ecclesiastes was:

      What has been will be again,
      what has been done will be done again;
      there is nothing new under the sun.

      I love what you said on caring about justice and ministering grace. Thanks!

  17. I was sexually fondled by my scout master when I was 14 years old. He invited me on a trip and my parents said yes. When we got to the hotel he said I could take a shower. Suddenly he was in with me. He started washing my back then reached around front. He kept washing my penis against my will, and tapping my penis while in the one bed in the room. I protected myself as best I could then went to sleep. I do not know what happened after that. I never told my parents, but they found out from another scout. Then they asked me what happened. He was fired.

    However, it got me thinking of the word “NO.” It has changed or added meaning recently. Even in the marriage bed we are encouraged to find a safe word rather than “NO.” Such if my wife get into a tickling session and she says “no” I might think it is “Yes” from previous experience. Or some couples engage in light bondage (not us) but they are told to get a safe word because “no” might mean “yes” in some instances. So we have been encouraged to have words like “red=stop, yellow=slow down, green=good.”

    I said “no” and my scout master kept going. Women might say “no” and in the guys ears sound like “yes.” I think when a guy or girl says “no” they should follow through and stop their sexual activity. If they encourage the guy afterwards, then that can be misunderstood in a future encounter. Then harassment or rape might actually happen when the thinking was it was consensual.

    1. Oh my goodness, how could that man do that to you?!! How awful. And while I’m glad he got fired, he should have been prosecuted.

      Thank you, however, for sharing your story to show that (1) it happens to guys too, and (2) in the moment, it’s hard to know what to say or do. Maybe that last point isn’t what you intended to say, but I think your story shows something I’ve seen a lot. The perpetrator can say, “Well, they didn’t push me off” or “They didn’t yell no or anything.” But oftentimes, when you’re harassed or assaulted, you’re in so much shock, you can’t even process what’s happening and you don’t know how to respond. And yet, the other person has many cues that the behavior is unwanted.

      That said, I think you’re quite right about following through with someone’s no. Next week, I plan to share a great video about consent in that regard. Unfortunately, I fear that you’re right about our culture, in the sense that we expect a standard of behavior that we don’t always support with other things we promote.

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  19. Good point, J, about the cyclical nature of history, and backed up by Ecclesiastes as well. Not to mention the well known experience of ancient Israel! Yes, that’s a good question: better for whom? I’m remembering you saying somewhere that you’ve studied history rather extensively, and I could see us having fun comparing notes from our respective studies.

    To Mike’s point, I can’t say my own life has always been free of abuse myself. When I was a confused young man living on the streets for a time, I was sometimes approached by another man wanting, well to put it bluntly, what gay men want, which is sex. Now the background of this is my family’s liberal stance on the gay lifestyle, which left me totally unprepared for intrusions like this. I caught on pretty quick, though, after a few deceptive, unwanted touches and even, um, one night stands, got in the habit of literally growling like a dog when some guy propositioned me. That seemed to do the trick. Then I got off the street, and went home – and got saved, too, by the way. Only by the grace of God, all of it.

    This reminds me, too, that there is a difference between rape and molestation. The latter, as I understand it, is that “coaxing and teasing” I mentioned earlier, but crossing way over any acceptable lines. It can be hard to detect until after it happens, which makes it a nasty problem in and of itself. And Mike, your comment speaks directly to what bothers me about the rampant suspicions and actual abuses coming to light. For God’s sake, I’m a man who wants to enjoy sex now and then. Isn’t that desire emotionally charged enough without this filth coming to light? Age old problem though. And it does demand attention.

    Wow, lengthy and deep discussion here, but J, this site really lives up to its name. I commend how you’ve maintained and encouraged humor even as these hard, unfunny, but necessary discussions go forth – and I find those helpful. You keep it clean and respectful, yet leave room for steamy subjects (holy and hot). I mean…swallowing?? I sat that one out, but I was listening, and don’t feel like my imagination is “that” wild after reading that! (Smile). Between that, and the current discussion, I feel I have some clarity. Thanks for your responses, and for listening.

    1. Speaking of the past, men and women didn’t used to be able to mix in non-family settings for this vary reason. Is separation of men and women something that has to happen as a society to end this?

      1. I think that’s the opposite of what’s needed. Because it’s when we see each other as real people, not just being to be gazed at across a field or whatever, that we start to really understand how to treat and respect others. And of course, that’s not what Jesus did. He approached the woman at the well, he spoke to the woman who washed his feet, he spent time in the home of Martha and Mary.

        1. If we were all Jesus I would agree, but as Dr Phil would say, “How’s that working out for you?” We got rid of all those rules and barriers and what did we get? We ended up with exactly what you would expect in a society that got rid of all the rules and barriers. I honestly don’t know if men and women will ever be able to work along side each other without these kind of problems without strict rules.

          1. How’s it working in cultures where they do separate men and women? I’ll tell you how: Women are treated way worse.

  20. A common thought process in our society is that if the other guy is bad, I must be innocent. I see this in marriage counseling all the time – a litany of complaints about a spouse is really meant to get me to conclude that they are blameless.

    Yes, both women and men are often guilty in these circumstances – just of different things. A cultural shift toward morality in both sexes is long overdue.

    Jesus said, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6, NKJV). The clear implication is that there are two sinners in this situation – the one who “sins” and the one who causes another to sin.” They are both guilty. Jesus here points out the culpability of the influencer, and the fact the they bear guilt for the condemnation of the other.

    This runs counter to a couple of common thoughts: the perception that if one is guilty, the other is innocent; and also that we can indeed cause another to sin by our actions.

    You can make appropriate applications to cases of sexual harassment. I’m not sure that actual abuse/rape are in play here. And yet the definitions of rape, abuse and harassment are being constantly expanded so that they seem to disrespect the suffering of true victims. Since we are a culture that makes decisions based on feeling, I don’t have much hope that true good will come of this society-wide. But we can all individually make sure that we do not sin, or cause others to sin.

    Thank you J for a balanced article. I hope you don’t take too much abuse for it.

  21. I’ve been re-reading “The Abolition of Man? by C.S. Lewis, a short book I heartily recommend to anyone who has anything to do with raising and/or teaching children. He addresses a problem that is fundamental to this discussion of modesty.

    For over a century, our education in western culture has been based on materialism, with the inevitable result that any concept of objective values has been thrown out. I was shocked once to read about a survey that found that a majority of evangelical Christians do not believe in objective good and evil. Everything has become subjective truth.

    Lewis points out that the end result of the abandonment of objective values will be the destruction of the society that does so. “We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

    I would say that for a long time we, as a society, have laughed at chastity, and now we are shocked to find out about all this abuse and harassment. In point of fact, this behavior is exactly what we should expect to find in this fallen world. For a long time, the vestiges of a more religious society kept the wolf at bay. But since we are certainly in post-Christian America, we should not be surprised. Horrified, but not surprised.

    I assume that the majority of your blog’s readers are themselves Christians. I believe our best course of action is to pray for and grieve with the victims, bring offenders to justice, and shine the light of truth by boldly teaching about godly sexuality in monogamous marriage. By teaching and living this truth, we may not change the world, but we can each have a positive impact on our own little corner of the world. Bring up our children to understand the beauty of sex in marriage by God’s design. Help fellow believers who are struggling in this area. Teach all believers to rely on the Holy Spirit to transform our lives and to “keep ourselves unstained by the world” (James 1:27). And, yes, that includes being modest in out behavior

    1. “I would say that for a long time we, as a society, have laughed at chastity, and now we are shocked to find out about all this abuse and harassment. In point of fact, this behavior is exactly what we should expect to find in this fallen world.” So this caught my eye in particular. Because on one hand, I do think our culture has encouraged sexual misconduct in various ways. On the other hand, we’ve been living in a fallen world since Genesis 3, and sexual harassment/assault have been with us a long time.

      I’ve had conversations with other women in which we wondered if maybe this seems like a current issue more to men, because they haven’t dealt with it like women have for a long time. Ask some older women who lived through the “good ol’ days” of the 1950s or 1960s when at least the United States was far more religious (see The Great Decline: 60 years of religion in one graph), and they will tell you that sexual harassment was rampant then. It was just kept under wraps, because the expectation was some men preyed while women gatekept. I do agree that sexual misconduct has been worse in some periods of history than others, and that we can therefore make things better in our time, but I believe the core issue is “fallen world.”

      1. Oh, and The Abolition of Man is on my shelf (inherited from my father’s library!), and now I want to re-read it. Thanks!

      2. I think it’s more likely that men just don’t understand why it’s so traumatic for women more than anything else, because we come from such a different perspective and life experience. While most women might have been hit on during their entire youth, most men would give their right arm for that that kind of attention. Many men will never have a woman hit on them out of the blue, and I would venture to say that those men long for that. Most non-Christian men would probably be in hog heaven if the things in #metoo were done to them.

        I’m just guessing, but I bet most men just can’t fathom getting “too much” sexual attention, and maybe that’s part of the issue with understanding.

        1. Yeah, I don’t think men understand how aware we women are that we could be mistreated or overpowered very quickly. Just in terms of physicality, men tend to be larger and have greater upper body strength, so if a man really wants to force a sexual advance on a woman, it’s hard to get out of that. And we’re quite aware of that fact, usually by junior high. It changes how you view a lot of things. All that said, men get mistreated and overpowered too, and it’s harder sometimes for those victims to come forward because there’s a sense that it shouldn’t have happened to him.

          1. This is why I advocate for all women to learn to fight and to carry a gun.

            As a note, I’ve been researching male sexual assault/coercion where the female is the perpetrator (far more common than anyone reports in the media). Men almost never get overpowered by a woman.

            They are forced to have sex usually in 3 different situations typically. 1) forced at gunpoint/knifepoint 2) Sex occurs while he is blackout drunk or asleep 3) He is threatened in some way if he doesn’t have sex, such as the threat that she will tell everyone he raped her. The third is the most common by far and typically occurs in a relationship or on a date.

  22. Is rape or sexual harassment ever justified? Absolutely not! There are ZERO circumstances that can justify sexual violence of any kind.

    However, are there actions that can encourage it? Absolutely so!

    A woman who dresses immodestly isn’t “asking for it”, but she may very well (unknowingly) be enticing any predators in the room.

    What I’m saying is this:

    Women (and men) are both responsible for how they present themselves to the world, and how we present ourselves has a great deal to do with how others perceive us. Ladies, Gentlemen, you may not be “asking for it” but there are nuts out there who (based on the way that you’re dressed) think that you are.

    They shouldn’t think this way (but they do) and need to be taught otherwise. I won’t argue with that. However in the mean time, (since we all know these deviants exist) why not dress modestly? Why not keep temptation to a minimum? Why not take steps to discourage such behavior?

    Dressing modestly because you know there are sicko’s out there is no different than locking your car because you know there are thieves. It’s a protective measure that only makes sense.

  23. This was very well written. It articulates my own thoughts on the subject. It is not victim blaming in the slightest! I appreciate that you essentially said it does not EXCUSE the behavior of the perpetrator. However, there are sinful people all around us (ahem, everyone) and if we put ourselves in not so great situations, evil is unfortunately more likely to occur. I mean, that would be the reason that walking around with a thousand dollars cash at 1 am in a bad part of town is not a good idea. It does not excuse or lessen the severity of someone potentially mugging and stealing from you, but also, WISDOM!!!

    1. Thank you! Your comment just reminded me that I’ve taught my children to put their money away. (They’re prone to leave cash out on their dressers or desks.) I’ve explained that, while we trust the people invited into our house, we just don’t know their secret situations that might cause money left out to be a temptation. And out of courtesy for them, we don’t want to give them cause to struggle … so we put our money away.

      Of course, if we left cash out, and a visitor to our house took it … they would still be a thief. And thieves determined to steal will break in and take the money, some even to the point of harming individuals in the home. I think that’s at least similar to how the harassment/assault continuum works.

  24. Ignorance of male-female differences — a big problem in many marriages — must also be a huge contributor to sexual assault and harassment. “A Billion Wicked Thoughts,” the book which researched sexual relationships based on internet searches, contained this quote:

    “The greatest hurdle to sexual harmony is ignorance of the fact that members of the other sex…are fundamentally different from ourselves. We all instinctively feel that other people must be just like us.”

    Just as a husband’s failure to recognize that his wife was created fundamentally different than himself will lead to serious marital problems, so men who harass or assualt women usually assume the women are thinking just like themselves, like a man.

    1. Yes, I’ve had a male commenter argue that he’d essentially welcome what women consider harassment. I think he’s on the far end of that notion, but his comments showed that he just didn’t get it. He couldn’t seem to put himself in the other’s shoes.

      Most of us can sympathize, however, if we’re willing to consider these issues at a conscious level and to ask, and then believe, what the opposite sex tells us.

      And some harassment is just harassment no matter what. Like really about 96% of it, anyone who cared about others would know is harassment. It’s just the squishy minority we struggle with, I think.

      1. Yes, and then again all cases are different. I once sat on the jury of a supposed rape case. After listening to all the arguments and evidence, it was obvious the unmarried mother of small children had picked up a guy at a night club and brought him to her house where they had consensual sex. Afterwards, she went into the shower alone to bath. When she got out of the shower she realized her hookup had stolen her credit card. She then drove 30-45 minutes back to the night club, and after being unable to locate the man returned to the local police department and filed rape charges. This was after she had testified to greatly fearing the man who she claimed had held her at knifepoint. Sadly, too much emphasis is placed on consent today; fornication is cool as long as both consent. Instead, fornication itself should be punishable by law.

        1. Okay, I was with you until “fornication itself should be punishable by law.” Um, didn’t God give us free will? People can choose to sin. What our laws are about is making sure you don’t harm others.

          1. I’m not saying we should punish fornication, but even if it’s consensual fornication does harm the other person, and yourself, and children born out of wedlock, and society as a whole. So, although our current mindset might be very much against such a thing, I think you could make a good case for such laws. Of course such a thing might be impossible in our modern culture, but I think you could make the case that fornication is more destructive to our society overall than even sexual harassment is.

          2. Okay, I can see that case of fornication vs harassment (not sure I agree, but I can see it). However, sexual assault is clearly worse.

          3. I’ll definitely grant that sexual assault is worse than sexual assault, but I think it’s very debatable that sexual harassment is clearly worse than fornication. I would say that it depends on the situation on a case by case basis, but on a societal level by gut is that consensual sex outside of marriage does more harm.

          4. Well, how about we all work to stop all of it? Sexual harassment, sexual assault, sex outside of marriage … that’s the biblical stance, after all.

          5. I think that’s a given J. We all as Christians need to do everything we can to get rid of all sin. That begins with ourselves first and foremost, folllowed by our family and close friends, followed by all the people we touch. Of course, we can only truly control ourselves.

  25. Yeah. I’ve had some of these thoughts. I grew up in South Africa. And yes, Africa has horrific rape culture. Men will rape babies because the Witch doctor told him it will cure his HIV to have sex with a virgin #truestory.
    Obviously, that’s one extreme.

    On the other hand, one of the undergrads on my lab got all sorts of worked up when one of the stories broke about jocks raping a passed out drunk girl at a party and filming it. Now that was obviously truly horrible. But I have a hard time seeing it as the same thing as a girl in my eight grade class who got raped by a group of men who broke into her home and tied up her brother and father before they got to her.

    The first instance has plenty of blame to pass around 1) the jocks, duh 2) the other guys who weren’t prepared to die rather than see that girl taken advantage of 3) the adults who allowed kids to have an unsupervised party. 4) whoever sold the minors alcohol 5) the girls parents for allowing her to go 6) the jocks parents for raising scum bags… We can go on. But the fact remains that that would not have happened if the girl wasn’t at that party and if she didn’t choose to drink alcohol.
    In instance nr 2. There is absolutely nothing that girl or her family could have done to prevent what happened to her.

    So why don’t we do everything in our power to prevent 1 and instanced like 1 by teaching girls about the dangers of being drunk, no girl left behind, date rape drugs and the like? Which would include not sending messages with your dress, speech and actions that you are looking for sex, if you are not, in fact, looking for sex. It’s the same kind of thing as not showing up at your interview in sweats, covered with tattoos and unwashed hair. Your clothes and manner sends a message and you ignore it at your peril.

    1. I agree with what you’re saying. What’s difficult is that the drunk/passed-out girl may feel too much guilt for what happened, and I know when you say things like that it feels to some like we’re dumping more crud on top of a girl who already got raped. And I would never want to add to her burden! I have great compassion for that victim.

      But you’re just pointing out what we can and cannot do to help prevent these occurrences. And at the end of day, all of those perpetrators are rapists who should be convicted for their crimes.

      1. I do feel sorry for that girl.
        But wouldn’t she want to tell other girls to protect themselves as much as possible too?

        I mean, the current president of SA raped a lesbian woman who was known HIV + because she was “asking for it”. How, do you ask? By wearing a mini-skirt. Don’t worry, his 4 or 5 current wives and himself are safe from HIV because he took shower after. You can’t make this stuff up.

        He’s 100% wrong and despicable of course, but you’d better believe I’m not walking around Zulu men (or in Saudi-Arabia) with a mini-skirt.

        1. Yes, she would want to warn others. But I’m saying that I know women to whom this happened, and when they hear/read things that say they contributed somehow, they have a visceral reaction of more emotional self-flagellation. And I don’t wish that on anyone, while at the same time we should warn people.

          All these discussions, to me, just show how tricky it is for us to deal with those two truths I named up there as being completely true at the same time. Some want to blame the victim and thus let up on the perpetrator, and others ignore the fact that we can do at least some things to promote a better culture and improve our chances of not being harassed or attacked.

          And you make a good point about cultural context with the Zulu/Saudi-Arabia comment: You need to consider the environment you’re in for what’s acceptable/advisable.

  26. Someone said “But the fact remains that that would not have happened if the girl wasn’t at that party and if she didn’t choose to drink alcohol.”

    Isn’t it a basic fact that she wouldn’t have been raped if they hadn’t decided to rape her?

    This is what frustrates me. Is it inevitable that men take advantage of a woman? Of course not. It’s as if society has resigned itself to the idea that men are sexually aggressive and by default if given the opportunity they will sexually assault so ladies, cover up! I don’t believe that. Maybe I’m just naive….

    I think Jesus would say to men that they are to protect and honor women. I don’t believe He would spend a whole lot of time or any time telling women to be more modest in their dress.

    1. I agree that the main focus is on telling men, and women, to behave! The perpetrators are the ones committing crimes and engaging in misconduct. However, the Bible does talk about modesty too, so we’d be remiss to ignore that message, even if it’s less important than the primary one of treating others the way you’d want to be treated — with respect (Matthew 7:12).

    2. Keren, if your way worked we would just end all crime instantly by just educating everyone that stealing, murder, rape, lying under oath, and all bad things that people do are wrong. Of course we already do this, and yet all these things still happen. We don’t walk on don’t streets in a bad part of town with no protection, we lock our doors, and we do all sorts of things to protect ourselves because this is a fallen world. Telling a woman not to take precautions in my mind is being complicit in her future rape in my opinion. That sounds harsh but I really believe that.

      1. I think the issue, Brian, is that we women hear literally hundreds of these kind of messages throughout our life, which feel like they are shifting the blame to us. One reason some women don’t come forward after a sexual assault is that they know how likely it is that they’ll be asked what they were wearing, if they were flirting, what “role” did they play. But we don’t usually do that to a robbery victim, do we? Our standard approach isn’t to say, “So the thief took everything you own. But I bet you were asking for it.” And that is, sadly, how it feels for many women.

        So while you’re right that we absolutely should take precautions, the constant emphasis on that makes things seem unbalanced, when the real person to blame is the rapist.

  27. Pingback: Q&A with J: What about All the Sexual Misconduct Allegations? | Hot, Holy & Humorous

  28. Pingback: #NotAgain: Resources for Moving Forward from #MeToo - The Forgiven Wife

  29. J, thank you for your blog. First time commenter here. When it comes to modesty, I pretty much fit in with very modest women (clothing and behavior). My whole life I’ve been like that. However, I’ve been like that because I also grew up with incest. I have hated my body. I feared my body. I’ve been ashamed of my body. I’m in my 40’s now and finally in recovery and starting to feel good. I don’t always feel horrible for having a body anymore and I’m wanting to dress better. My new idea of dressing would still be considered modest and I’ve started shopping and have been happy. However, I recently read the yoga pants post with comments and this one with comments and I no longer feel good and confident. I live my life mostly within the Christian circle and by the comments, I have been made aware that I’m still not safe among my Christian brothers. I know there’s just a few men writing (and it seems like Brian and Doug are the same person) but overall, these married, Christian men have scared me because they still have eyes that look at other women sexually. I hope they are not the majority, but they write like as if they are. Now, I don’t want to wear my new style of clothing that I felt alive in. Maybe my comment would fit in better with the yoga pants post, but I happened to noticed this one is not closed to comments yet. I will talk to my therapist about this. I’m just really upset right now from these comments. I’m so scared of being seen by my body and sexuality (like being viewed as meat). I’m more than that. Like Karen wrote something about men, that they should first and foremost see females as people to honor and protect. Do most Christian men see me like that? Or are these men writing really the majority?

    1. Misty, I’m so sorry the comments hurt you. But no, such men do NOT speak for a majority of Christian men. I wish more husbands would respond to comments like theirs to demonstrate that. But I have spoken to and heard from a number of Christian men who do not look at women that way.

      And if we would regularly call out that line of thinking — that HER dress leads to HIS lust — in Churches and within Christian circles, the number of men who focus too much on a woman’s sexuality or appearance would be even fewer.

      Your beauty is not a temptation for anyone to lust after you. Yes, a stripper is asking for ogling, but not the normally dressed woman on the street or even the one-piece swimsuit gal on the beach. Trust that your body is God-given. Treat it as worthy of your respect and others’ respect. And know that modesty is far more about behavior than dress. Blessings!

      1. Thank you J for your response. I’ve been thinking about this stuff and I came to realize that if I go back to my very modest, maybe even considered frumpy, clothing, then I let the perverts win. I’m done living in that fear. I truly am worthy of respect. I believe my new style is modest. Modest to most people anyway. I feel more confident with being a woman and a wife. My husband loves all of my newfound confidence and that I can embrace my sexuality now. And my behavior is modest. Being shy helps with that. Thank you for your ministry. I especially like reading your positive articles that don’t cause debates – at this point in my life anyway.

    2. Misty, you are not just meat to me. I have a healthy sex life, but it is with my wife, not with other women that I meet. As a young Christian I learned to discipline my mind and only view women as sisters in Christ. The more I get to know a woman the more I see her personality. Her physical appearance takes a back seat to her true self that is beneath the surface. My wife will ask me, “what was she wearing?” I honestly do not know. I do not look at dress, hair, makeup, shoes, etc. None of those stay with me. What stays with me is the conversation, the new information I learned, what she has new in her life, her goals, her history, her children, her pains, struggles, etc.

    3. Misty, sorry if something I said offended you. The Lord created man and woman naked and said it was good. Later, he made them clothes but that was because they needed them in their changed environment with thorns, etc. I do not believe it was because of shame as is commonly taught. We are told about our heavenly father, “He knows what we need before we ask.” In another place, “If we have food and clothing we should be content.” You are not responsible for any man’s lust, period. If any comment by me seemed to imply no man can look upon a woman otherwise, that is not true. That would contradict our Lord’s instructions not to lust after a woman. All said, our Creator made our bodies beautiful.

      1. Thank you for this reply. The reason why I pointed you and Brian out was because of the comments on December 4 at 11am and 1:41pm. They seem to be the same person. I could be misunderstanding something.

        1. Misty, nope, we are not the same persons. Not sure what my train of thought was at the time of the comment in regards to punishing fornication. I think I was trying to make the point that our society sees nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage. It is only deemed wrong if there is lack of consent.

  30. First and foremost, I don’t think anyone has said that the way you dress forces a man to lust. My lust is my sin and is mine to own and account for. Next, I’m not sure what you mean by “safe” when it comes to being around other men. If you mean that they might look at you in a sexual way and be tempted to lust by looking at you, then I am close to 100% sure that you are not “safe”.

    I’m confident that I’ve spoken to way more men in honest confidence than J has on this, and men have always been shamed for our sex drive and lust so I’m not sure how forthcoming a man will be with a woman about how hard it is to navigate the world anyway. Do Christian men only look at women as sexual objects? Absolutely not! Do we want to honor and protect women? Of course! But if you guys think that the vast majority of men stop seeing women as a source of potential temptation for lust, you are simply wrong.

    Are there some men that could look at a naked or barely dressed woman and not have any temptation to lust at all? I’m sure there are. After all, there are apparently men who have little to no sex drive and men who are only attracted to men. I’m also sure there are some men who are so Godly and have worked for years to discipline their minds, bodies, and hearts to a point that they have overcome this. But make no mistake. That is a small portion of men and every data point agrees with me. After all, statistics on porn use among Christian men is extremely high in the church and even among pastors.

    Misty, I’m very sorry for what happened to you and although you may not believe me, I have a huge amount of sympathy for you because I experienced some pretty bad things early in life that hurt me sexually as well. I wish I could tell you that no matter what you wear that you aren’t being a source of temptation for men. If I only wanted to make you feel better I would tell you that. It’s simply not true. I wish it was and I wish most men didn’t have a weakness to lust. I wish a lot of things were different but wishing doesn’t make them reality. I hope you find peace Misty, but find peace in truth and not in what we wish were true.

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