The Thinking 

A Continuing Discussion on Immodesty

May 29, 2012


IN THE latest post on immodesty, a college professor agrees with my position that feminism and a hypersexualized environment have robbed many well-intentioned women of basic common sense.

J.N. writes:

I don’t doubt that some women dress immodestly out of aggressiveness, but I agree that most women probably do so out of lack of awareness.  This happens because feminist social opprobrium and sexual harassment law have prevented the natural male response to immodest dress from occurring. Young women think they are merely being “pretty” because they are no longer exposed to what really goes on in a man’s mind.

Some years ago I arrived as a new professor at a university.  A graduate student contacted me requesting a meeting to get advice on her research project. The appointed time came, and a young woman walked into my office wearing a very tight sweater and a very short skirt.  This was not the typical clothing worn by female graduate students, and I was caught off guard.  Before I realized it, I found myself staring at her.  She realized it, too, and an awkward discussion of her research commenced as I studiously avoided looking directly at her and she constantly fidgeted with her clothing and changed her sitting posture.  It was fortunate that she recognized her own contribution to the situation and didn’t lay the blame all on me for being a “creep”.  Whatever her reason for dressing the way she did, I’m sure it was not to catch the eye of an older professor. I was embarrassed that I had not more carefully controlled my eyes, as most men have trained themselves to do. And because men pretend not to notice, women think nothing is amiss.  But in that situation, the veil momentarily slipped, and the true reaction of a man to an underdressed woman became apparent.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that this student always wore more modest clothing at our subsequent meetings.

                                          —– Comments —-

Paul writes:

You are right that some women are hypersexual though I don’t know the cause. I believe much of it is well-intentioned women wanting to show what they have without “asking for it.” I work with a much younger married woman who is pretty and has especially attractive but not ostentatious breasts—just perfect.

She is self-conscious about her hip size; therefore, I suspect, she used to wear this almost-trapeze-cut top with 1” straps. It was delightful of course, but I noticed she had to pull it up constantly. She stopped wearing it for a couple of years even though I don’t think she caught me glancing, often. (She began having children.)

Then the other day she was wearing a somehow more revealing trapeze-cut top with regular sleeves, and she quickly began to pull it up as I appeared in front of her desk. I suspect she thought the frills and regular sleeves were going to distract men, who though socially naive with women, are gifted experts with the female shape. Well, if she had leaned forward without looking at me, I am not sure who would have fallen out first—them or me.

Mary writes:

J.N. wrote: Young women think they are merely being “pretty” because they are no longer exposed to what really goes on in a man’s mind.

Well, I guess Paul has solved that problem, on this site anyway.

If I had daughters I would make sure they realized that if they dress immodestly they will attract the attention of all males, from age 12 to age 80+ – not just the cute ones they want to attract but men of all walks of life, most of whom will be observing them without letting on. But sometimes they do let on: a young woman who worked in an office in which I had a close friend was furious one day because she had been asked out on a date. She had been asked out on a date by a guy who she considered to be unattractive, not cool, a “geek” and beneath her, and she wanted some kind of action taken against this man, who had so insulted her by showing her attention. This 25-year-old young woman exercised herself into a stupor every day, visited a tanning parlor several times a week, had a bust enlargement, and wore clothes to enhance the effects of all this time and labor and monetary investment on her body in its full glory. Then she was freaked out when the wrong guy noticed. Her self-centeredness was her downfall and perhaps is at the root of this issue.

Laura writes:

Given that a woman such as the one Mary describes may use sexual harassment laws to inflict serious punishment on a man who shows her unwanted attention — but not on men who show her wanted attention — her immodesty and self-centeredness constitute a form of predation.

A reader writes:

Paul wrote: “…some women are hypersexual though I don’t know the cause.”

First thought that comes to mind is they copy the culture, which is obsessed with sex. Also, it can start in the home. In school a girl I knew seemed to be flaunting her body as a cry for attention; her father appeared distant and her parents divorced (his adultery was involved). Another friend who liked to flaunt it had a father with a stack of porn magazines. She saw what he valued.

Mary writes:

Laura wrote:

Given that a woman such as the one Mary describes may use sexual harassment laws to inflict serious punishment on a man who shows her unwanted attention — but not on men who show her wanted attention — her immodesty and self-centeredness constitute a form of predation.

Absolutely. Thankfully, there was no action taken against this man who was simply too socially awkward to understand instinctively that they were not a good match. She never gave him the time of day outside of what is necessary in an office setting; on the contrary all of her encouragement was in the form of immodesty, which needs no words.

Most people take their cues uncritically from the prevailing culture (which has really, at this point, degraded into passive entertainment); if they think about it at all, they trust that the culture is unmanipulated, that it develops and flows organically; and they assume good will on the part of the society from which they believe it flows. It seems natural and fair in a sense that they should be able to do so. People have retained a sort of innocence in this regard even if it’s not apparent when we look around. This is behind the blindness of many immodestly dressed women: they trust that what is culturally predominant is acceptable and leave it at that. They have a real and natural desire to be a part of what is happening around them and have no clue that they are advancing cultural decline.

When people use the phrase “but everybody’s doing it” as a justification for a particular action there’s a level of frustration behind it: why can’t I live fully in my culture and feel a part of it? Why can’t I trust that it is good? Community is a normal human need – why should I have to withdraw from the prevailing culture to live a good life? I understand that frustration; it took me years to distance myself from passive entertainment, and sometimes it is still difficult. I found technology to be the big culprit: when I turned off the TV, I started reading a lot more, and reading garbage is somehow more intolerable than watching garbage on TV so consequently my reading material is of a decent quality. Passive entertainment in the form of TV etc. is extremely dangerous as it leaves the viewer with his defenses down and in a stupor-like state. I think it is a huge factor in the immodesty issue (and in many other issues as well). My friends with daughters – and these are good and healthy families – tell me of the tears shed over clothing choices. These poor girls just want to blend in.

Today we must retain a distance so we can see clearly. Until we withdraw, we will never see that this culture we live in did not develop organically; it did not flow naturally out of our populace; that it was and is still being manipulated by groups that don’t have good will and our best interests in mind. I know there was never a perfect time but I envy those who lived during a time when wholesome and meaningful arts and tradition dominated a true culture to the enrichment and benefit of all.

Paul writes:

It is pleasing to know that Mary understands her man at issue is an outlier. Some men of all ages are clueless. This is not to discourage men and women from pursuing someone out of their league. They can end up having as good a marriage as any. Men and women join for many reasons, not the least of which is security.

Fortunately today women can complain about unwanted trolls, but let’s not forget that the joinder of older men and women (or ugly men and beautiful women) should not be repulsive and is not injurious to society. Although we are displeased with the deviation from the ideal, we need to be tolerant. This is especially true if the economy descends into a depression. Perhaps Jane Eyre is the analogy.

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