The Thinking 

Female Immodesty and its Effects

December 29, 2009


Catherine writes:

I have a question about your article “Married to a Wimp.” I’ve been wondering about it, but haven’t had the chance to ask until now.

In that article, it seemed to me that you implied that immodestly dressed girls are forcing young men to or toward becoming effeminate. You said something about having to “tone down” their hormones or it would be impossible to function.

I have a friend who is a member of a familybigstockphoto_Flowers_2715960[1] filled with attractive, immodest women, and extremely feminine men. One is an “out of the closet” gay.  I’ve thought for some time that it all seemed connected. 


Laura writes:

The bared female flesh on display almost everywhere today, and especially visible in the average high school, is emasculating.  In general, female reticence, not the overt display of female sexuality, arouses masculine behavior. The whole thing is over-stimulating and there is no choice for men but to become desensitized, but also female sexual aggression probably makes men less likely to engage in normal competitive behavor.

It’s ironic given the supposed level of sophistication and scientific awareness of our society. Women are so ignorant of the fundamentals of male psychology, the sort of things that were common knowledge thousands of years ago. They assume the male predilection for the naked female body has no limits. They think men want to see them in public in skimpy clothes because after all men do lust after their bodies. But what appeals to men is youth and beauty combined with some outward proof of reluctance. Men do not find promiscuity appealing unless they are looking for quick sex or unless they are so emasculated they are seeking a fellow eunuch who looks like a woman.

Lawrence Auster has made brilliant observations about the effects of immodesty on men, and I credit him for making me understand the phenomenon better. He writes:

The way many women dress today, with half their breasts exposed, is an expression of total disrespect for men. Men are left with three possible responses. To grab the woman, which is illegal; to ogle the woman, which is socially unacceptable; or to affect not to notice the woman at all, which is emasculating. A culture that normalizes such female behavior–i.e. not only not noticing or objecting to it, but prohibiting any objection to it–is extremely sick.

I recommend the remainder of that thread. I contributed a number of comments to it. Even as a women, I find it hard to concentrate in the presence of women who are dressed with low-cut or revealing clothes. I feel drawn into assessing their bodies and then feel ashamed about it. It creates a visual form of white noise that is distracting.  It makes it hard to think when a female announcer has exposed cleavage. In fact, how does she think?

The tendency of women to aggressively market their bodies is a sign of desperation. Something basic has been lost and they try to retrieve it.  The bared chests, clingy tops, padded bras and surgically bloated breasts create cartoonish, Freudian representations of femininity.  In an age of diminished fertility, this makes perfect sense. It really shows a degrading of the female form and its immense power.

As for Catherine’s friend who comes from a family of aggressive females and homosexual men, it makes sense. I wouldn’t say the immodest clothing alone pushes the men toward homosexuality. It is one sign of an inversion of sex roles.

Clark Coleman writes:

Here is an alternative reaction men could have to immodest female dress: Glance at the bare flesh briefly (unavoidable) and then think of the woman as a cheap slut and respond accordingly. In other words, men can train their reactions/tastes over time to produce a feeling of contempt for such women.

Let me give some practical examples. Women sometimes use friends to gauge a man’s interest in them. A woman casually asks a man what he thinks of Cathy. He says that it is hard to say, because some things about her seem really nice, but she dresses like a slut, which sends confusing signals, so he probably won’t be pursuing her. Yes, I am totally serious. He can say the same kind of thing to his male friends from time to time when they talk about the women they know. When enough men and women start hearing such things, there will be some changes.

If this proves too difficult, because men just cannot engage their brains when female flesh is visible, then we will get the kind of women we deserve. But it seems to me that men of prior generations had some percentage (lower than today) of obvious tramps to respond to in some way, and enough of them responded to tramps with contempt so that not many women wanted to be tramps. So it seems possible. However, I do realize that it is the trend in all the recent online discussions of sexual liberation and its effects to blame everything on women, with men cast in the role of innocent bystanders and victims, an attitude I vehemently reject.

Laura writes:

It’s fascinating how despite sexual liberation, the s-word still stings. No woman likes to be called a slut. It’s liked being kicked in the shins. It suggests not only sexual looseness, but sloppiness and ugliness. Men absolutely could affect the behavior of women if they called them sluts.

The problem is this is very unlikely. It wasn’t men who kept women from dressing like tramps, it was women. It was women who did the name-calling. Unfortunately, due to the competitive nature of male sexuality, men are unlikely to ever join together to affect the behavior of women in the way women have joined together under the banner of feminism to affect the behavior of men.

Imagine a gathering of men and women. Several beautiful women are in the room and they are dressed like second-rate whores. Let’s say these women are not only great-looking, but highly educated too. Do you really think anyone other than a low-testosterone prig is going to give the cold shoulder to those women? Fine if he does, because there will be other men in the room who will be happy to tell them they look just wonderful.

This sort of joint action by men isn’t going to happen and the reason for this is rooted in the innate and inextinguishable differences between male and female sexuality.

What can happen is this. A few beautiful women come to learn what truly appeals to men (perhaps by reading Internet discussions.) They start dressing with becoming modesty, not like nuns or Shakers but with lovely and interesting clothes. Imagine another gathering of men and women.  There are several fantastic-looking women in the room. Four of them are dressed like second-rate whores, their breasts launched for take-off with underwire steel. One is dressed with attractive discretion, the barest outlines of her figure visible beneath her clothes. The best men in the room gravitate to the lovely virgin.

Later on after the party, one of the whores complains to the virgin, “All the men were interested in you.”

The virgin then says to the whore, “Maybe that’s because you looked like a slut.”

Thus a revolution is born.

By the way, I disagree with Clark that these sort of discussions are unfair to women. It is women who uphold social manners. That is our job. Men have their own wars to fight. This is ours. Those women who walk away from defending the true and good in fashion and social customs are deserters and traitors. To say that men should run these things is comparable to the feminist claim that women should have equal say in the political sphere. 

Karen I. writes:

Mothers have a huge part to play if we want to change the culture of immodesty. We need to start teaching our daughters when they are very young what is proper and reject attire that is not appropriate. That is not an easy thing to do in our society, but I am trying. My six-year-old daughter’s Christmas dress was a red, gathered jumper with appliquéd Scottie dogs lining the bottom and a matching turtleneck underneath, embroidered with a red bow. [Laura writes: Adorable!  Could you please ship this little girl to me via UPS?] It was sold at J.C. Penny’s, next to a line of slinky, synthetic, strapless, glittering dresses for little girls. She wore cute black mary-jane shoes, which are sold next to child-size platform boots and metallic flats. I think every purchase I make is a statement about how I want my daughter to see herself and how I want the world to see her. If children are allowed to wear platform boots, blue nail polish, and miniskirts at the age of six, like some of my daughter’s classmates, what are they going to do when they are 12? The bar has to be set high from a young age. I don’t just dress my daughter nicely, I also talk to her about what looks nice and why. 

As for my son, he is very handsome, and at age 10 1/2, girls are already being very immodest around him. The problem is mainly older girls of 12 or so. They can be dangerously aggressive. We had an awful incident over a year ago where some girls outside held him down and forced another little girl to kiss him. I was inside doing dishes, thinking they were playing on the swing set of our apartment complex. They left bruises on his arms! We spoke to all of the parents and the girls all apologized. I made it clear we would call the police if he was not left alone. The little girl who was forced to kiss him was very upset about the whole thing and we did not call the police to save her further upset. Her father actually laughed it off and said she “probably loved it.” The girl was standing there with tears in her eyes! Even after that, one mother told me how her 12-year-old told her “how handsome __ is and how nice he would look when he was older.” We did not even get any peace in our Catholic Church on Christmas Eve. During the entire service, a girl kept looking back and staring at my son. My father teased him as we left Church about it and he was embarrassed. He did nothing to encourage it and the girls parents did nothing to stop her from her very inappropriate behavior. I loved it when he was little and old ladies would stop us in the store to tell me how beautiful his blue eyes were. Now, I have to guard him carefully and I worry about him. I am glad I am a housewife and I have a lot of control over who has access to him, but I worry about how aggressive these girls are.

Laura writes:

That is an amazing story. Think of young girls displaying this sort of aggression. This behavior is encouraged by popular culture, with its glorification of slutty pushy-ness in little girls, and it is extremely disturbing and outrageous. Imagine how unprepared these girls will be for relations with men.

A boy such as Karen’s son would be much better off in an all-male school. All boys would be better off in all-male schools, but a boy who meets the conventional definition of good-looking in this age of female aggression is in for some serious harrassment in a coed school today.

Karen writes:

We talked about sex and so on with our son sooner and in more detail than we planned to because we are worried about the behavior of the older girls around him. We’ve told him to let us know about anything they may do that makes him uncomfortable. It was the same sort of talk parents give kids about child molesters, but the focus was on older girls, not dangerous adults. I am not the only mother I know of whose son is being bothered by girls at a young age and none of us really know what to do about it but return the girls’ aggressive behavior with aggressive protection of our sons. I try to learn from the mistakes of some of the other moms, like the one who allowed her 12 year old to have a Facebook page only to find it filled with suggestive messages from girls. I simply won’t let my son have a Facebook page when he asks for one. He won’t have a cell phone, either, and I don’t think he will be allowed to go to the school dances when he is 12. It is sad we have to be so protective, but when I read that 1/4 of adolescent girls may be infected with STDs and I see how preteens treat my son, I see it as a matter of protecting his health, safety and maybe even his life. 

I have talked to my son about the characteristics of nice girls and pointed out a couple who are truly good as examples. They tend to be girls who are being raised like my son, by parents who are somewhat strict and religious by today’s standards. Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough of them. As a mother of a boy and a girl, I understand the pressures parents and girls are under these days, but too many parents want “popular” daughters and fail to set any kind of limits on them. By the time they are 12, they have a sense of entitlement that makes them think they can do anything they want to any boy they want. The preteen boys are more innocent for the most part, and they want to do things like build forts. They simply are not prepared for the female aggression they encounter and they cannot begin to understand it.

Eric writes:

It occurs to me that sometimes women will expose their breasts to show aggression, usually when they are in a group and signalling hostility to another group. Sometimes buttocks are exposed (men do this also).

I have always thought of excessive exposure of female flesh as being a subtle display of aggression, often aimed at other women.

Laura writes:

Interesting. Given the pervasiveness of exposed flesh today, there’s an entire subculture of female aggression.

Clark Coleman writes:

Let me clarify not only my own poorly expressed position, but shed light on some first principles that are crucial to the discussions on immodesty and feminism. I think we need to separate two concerns: How should traditional Christians behave, and how shall we rescue our civilization, in which traditional Christians are merely a minority of the population.

Let me address Christian behavior first. I suggested shaming of women by men concerning their immodest dress. You responded that this would not work, for a variety of reasons: One low-testosterone prig might not pay attention to a beautiful and immodest woman, but lots of other men would be glad to do so; fashion and manners are primarily a female domain, while men have bigger battles to fight; and men have innate sexual characteristics that differ from female characteristics (presumably meaning that they instinctively pursue attractive females in competitive fashion, rather than shunning and shaming them).

These would all be good arguments outside of a Christian context. A major part of our problem in sexual relations is that Christian doctrine has never fully penetrated this area of life. “Christian” parents have long kept a close eye on daughters while sons went carousing. “Christian” men valued virginity in unmarried women while scorning it in men, while “Christian” women did pretty much the same. Single “Christian” men tried to bed single Christian women while taking it for granted that it was entirely up to the woman to set sexual boundaries on their relationship. I will not belabor the point that none of these “Christian” attitudes are Biblical unless someone wants to argue the point.

My remark about how a whole series of internet discussions has placed all blame for the sexual revolution on women was made from a Christian perspective. Men have been encouraged to have little sexual morality for eons, and now they whine that the women stopped saying “No.” The sexual morality of prior generations was precarious because half of society was contributing little to it and counting almost entirely on the other half of society. In engineering, this would be called a “single point of failure,” like designing a car with only two lug nuts on each wheel. I pointed out at the Oz Conservative that the constant rhetoric about how feminists brought about the sexual revolution ignores the roles of Hugh Hefner et al.

But, let us assume for the sake of discussion that women really are entirely responsible for sexual morality. In that case, men are helpless. If the women of any society decide to become sluts, then the poor men cannot help themselves and are emasculated victims. We can just leave men out of the discussion and women can try to persuade other women to change their behavior. Helplessness, victimhood, and waiting for women to take the lead – does this sound masculine?

The language of “innate tendencies” that determine how men will behave is fine outside the Christian community. For Christians, it is poison. Christians are ekklesia, the called out, the set apart, and we battle our innate willful and selfish tendencies all the time. Being called upon to fight against the tide of nature is routine for us, even if it would be folly to recommend it to an entire society, most of which is not Christian. If we want to follow the deterministic evolutionary biology “it’s natural” mode of thinking, we can decide that men tend to seek sexual variety and therefore adultery is natural to men. “It’s natural” pronounced in fatalistic manner is poison to Christians.

In the context of a Christian community, such as Christian teens, collegians, or singles at churches, we can expect men to participate in setting sexual boundaries and not leave it all to women. We can teach our sons, we can teach from the pulpit, we can teach in the adult and teen and college classes, even though talking about sexual matters is less comfortable than other lessons we could deliver. When we speak out, we set the tone for the group’s values. We shame those who dress like sluts, and we remind every member of the community, all ages, male and female, that they are part of upholding the sexual morality of the community just like they all need to be honest, compassionate, etc. No virtue can be left to only a few to uphold. (By the way, as a high-testosterone prude, I take partial exception to your derogatory reference to the low-testosterone prig!)

Now to the second concern. What about the society at large? I have gone on long enough as it is. My first concern is that Christian men can meet and marry Christian women with a normal relationship prevailing between them. Persuading the entire non-Christian society to participate in a sexual counter-revolution is beyond the scope of my remarks. I will be content if Christians start behaving like Christians should behave.

Laura writes:

Perhaps in discussions elsewhere evolutionary psychology was radically overstated and Clark presumed I was saying all sexual morality is the exclusive domain of women. I didn’t say that or mean to suggest that. Of course men are responsible too. Women largely determine fashion and manners, but not all sexual morality. Traditional chastity was enforced by fathers and was considered an ideal to a lesser degree for men too.

Were Christians traditionally easier on men? They were more permissive of male sexuality in some ways, but overall the answer is no. Divorce was not considered any more acceptable when it was initiated by men. Adultery was not sanctioned for men or women in this country. Arguably, men were shamed more for using prostitutes than women were shamed for being prostitutes. And male use of pornography has long been widely attacked by prominent Christians. Men were never expected to dress modestly, but that’s irrelevant and while chastity was never as strongly valued in men, it was still considered a worthy ideal. A hundred years ago, men didn’t go around openly living with women to whom they weren’t married. 

Though men are as accountable as women for virtue in their personal lives, I don’t think it is realistic to expect them to have a direct effect on how women dress and on everyday manners. It’s also unreasonable to expect men and women to approach morality in the same way.

Christians can make responsible use of evolutionary psychology. That doesn’t mean surrendering to determinism or permissiveness. To say we work with certain innate tendencies is not necessarily to give in to those tendencies.

Let me give a couple of examples of ways in which Christians can make good use of evolutionary psychology.

About 100 years ago, some Christians thought it would be best if divorce laws were liberalized so that women could leave men who were irresponsible drunks, womanizers or loafers. Since women are naturally monogamous, they would use this freedom to divorce responsibly. That was the thinking at the time.

But this was based on a flawed understanding of female nature. Sexual waywardness was always recognized in men, but not in women. The truth is a significant minority of women are prone to serial monogamy, a fact that makes sense if one considers there is a basic animal drive to maximize one’s procreative potential. Women have their own reasons for wishing to abandon men in the same way men, with entirely different sexual natures, have reasons for wanting to abandon women. 

Christians can have a better understanding of the ways in which monogamy is not natural and with this knowledge can create laws and attitudes that counteract these innate inclinations (as they did in the past). The freedom to divorce and remarry makes no sense given what we know of female and male sexuality. Evolutionary psychology can help us return to where we once were.

Here is another example. It is women who primarily do the selecting of mates. (Let’s not go into the reasons for this here. Let’s just say it’s an important aspect of the female biological role.) When women are encouraged to delay marriage, a pool of sexually frustrated and unhappy men is likely to be created. When not encouraged by society to choose husband material, women choose bad boys and Prince Charmings. Less exciting men go overlooked, at least for a significant number of years.

Knowing this, Christians have even greater support for their belief in pre-marital chastity. Chastity in women is of the highest importance. But it isn’t important only for this utilitarian reason. In the Christian view, chastity outside of marriage is intrinsically good and leads to personal holiness. It is more sacred in the woman than in the man. A man creates life and thus biology and spirit intertwine in him too. But a Christian society encourages greater consciousness in a woman of her sacred function in carrying, bearing and nurturing life. That is her vocation and destiny. It is the Christian man’s destiny to provide for, protect and govern.

Clark wrote, “I will be content if Christians start behaving like Christians should behave.” Perhaps Christians could rediscover natural law and their own abandoned ethics by taking an honest look at the facts of biology. “All man is dual,” said Plato.  The Christian too believes spirit and body are one, but spirit represents the higher plane and takes the lead. 

Lisa Meyer writes:

Laura Wood said, “Men were never expected to dress modestly.” But according to Jeff Pollard’s Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America, as recently as the 1920’s a man not wearing a shirt in public could be arrested for “public nudity.” So there are some cultural residual evidences that men understood that baring male flesh in public was detrimental to the good order of society.

By the way, so glad to have been directed to your site. As a former female midshipman at Annapolis, now the middle-aged mother of ten, I am greatly encouraged by what I read here!

Laura writes:

Yes, Lisa is right of course. There were standards for modesty for men, though not as strict as for women. They too have declined. “The public undressing of America” is a great way to put it.

A former midshipman who is now the mother of ten?! 

Please don’t go away, darling. You are standing astride a cultural fault line. Only women such as you can save us.

Lisa writes:

No silly woman like me can save us: Only in seeking our Creator and Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ will we see our families and lives redeemed.

Clark Coleman writes:

I guess I don’t understand what role men are going to play in reducing immodest dress in women. I suppose we both agree that fathers can exercise control over minor daughters. Other than that, you continue to assert that this is all the domain of women (not all of sexual morality, but the issue of immodest dress). Yet you have said that immodest dress emasculates men.

So, immodest dress emasculates men, but men cannot do much about their emasculation in this manner? We have to wait for women to persuade other women to stop dressing immodestly? I repeat: This is not masculine behavior, to feel emasculated and do some whining while hoping women will stop.

Laura writes:

It would be great if men started criticizing women for the way they dress. I am all for it.



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