slut-shaming

Working Title: Another Blog in Which I Have Annoyed Feelings about the Currently Wildly Popular Article Everyone on Facebook Is Sharing and Push Them on You

Every day there is a new article trending on Facebook. Everyone is sharing it. I’m not sharing it there, because I kind of hate it. But I’ll share it here so you can see what I’m responding to. Here it is. In the article, a mother of a few teenage sons expresses disdain towards teenage girls for all of their selfies that they take in their bathrooms/bedrooms, posed provocatively, etc. etc. etc., touches very briefly on the importance of self-respect, but mostly continues to slut-shame these girls for the thoughts that their dress and behavior is putting in her boys’ heads. 

Surprise, moms to girls everywhere! Boys are having sexually impure thoughts about your daughters. I don’t care if she’s the ugliest girl at school, or if she wears a high collar and pants underneath her knee-length dress every day. Some guy, somewhere, has thought about tapping that. How do I know? Because they are boys. They think about it. Some things that make it easier for them to think about it: girls who take duck-faced selfies in their bathrooms, full size Victoria’s Secret ads at the mall, anatomically correct children’s cartoons. You cannot escape it, and slut shaming definitely isn’t helping. 

Going to church as a teenager, I was always taught that the primary reason for dressing modestly and covering up was so that we wouldn’t give guys the wrong idea about us, and/or wouldn’t help our teenage guy friends to have immoral thoughts. I always thought this was pretty sage advice when I was a teenager but now I can see how twisted it is to teach girls to cover up because men can’t control themselves.

My best friend all through high school was the boy next door, and guess what? He told me on a few occasions how seeing a girl who was scantily dressed made him feel. He also told me he felt the same way about girls who were dressed appropriately when he was attracted to them. He felt the same way. It was not because this one was in a wet white T-shirt and this one was too self-conscious and chubby to go out like that (me). He had sexual thoughts about both of them because on one hand, DANG!, and on the other, he liked her.

So as long as we’re talking to girls about giving boys ammo for their jollies, let’s just tell our girls to be totally unloveable. Turn off the charm. Don’t smile or be friends with boys, because they will be attracted to this, and sexual attraction is the worst. I repeat. Boys are thinking about it. I’m not encouraging girls to go to school in tiny skirts and whatever too-much-skin top is popular right now, but I’m saying that boys will have thoughts (girls will too!) and THIS IS NOT YOUR DAUGHTER’S FAULT. Nope. It’s normal.

How about this instead? How about teaching girls to have self-respect and then expressing themselves in a way that reflects that? How about not indoctrinating our kids to think that they are responsible for the thoughts and behaviors of the other half of the human population as well as their own? Doesn’t that seem like a huge, unnecessary burden to put on someone who hasn’t even totally formed their own sense of self? Don’t you think it’s too much to ask a 16 year old girl to keep it covered for the purpose of policing boys’ minds?

Last I checked, arousal is totally natural. I’m not sure it’s entirely plausible to think that boys will have any chance of growing up to have healthy sex lives if they have been taught their whole lives that a sexual response to a naked woman, or an almost naked woman, or a fully clothed woman is disdainful. Your boys are thinking about sex. Yep. That’s normal. And it’s nobody’s fault.

So I’m not saying that girls should dress like hell just because they want to. Girls, cover up. Wear cute outfits. But do it because you’re classier than that, and because you respect your beautiful, amazing body that can do anything. Do it because your body is cool and is capable of doing amazing things. Dress appropriately because the way you dress is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Dress intelligently because you are intelligent, and dress like trash if that’s who you are inside too. But I see no reason why you should be responsible for making the conscious choice to dress in a way that will keep boys from looking at you like a sex object. It is futile.

Now teach your girls to have integrity and they will dress accordingly. Do not teach them to dress appropriately so that men can keep theirs. 

18 thoughts on “slut-shaming

  1. YES. YES. YES. Girls aren’t responsible for the things that someone else does or thinks. That’s why the whole idea of “modesty” is messed up. It assumes girls can control the thoughts of others. You can’t. It’s impossible. Wear what makes you feel good because the only thoughts and feelings you can control are your own.

  2. Since if a woman causes your son to have sexual thoughts about her, you definitely don’t want him to marry her! He should only be interested in someone that would NEVER cause him to have a sexual thought, right? Sounds like a recipe to a happy and healthy marriage to me! Haha, just kidding. I really feel like people like Mrs. Hall could never have friends with people with different values/standards than they have. I’m totally cool with people having their own values, but it bugs me when they try to shame everyone else into having the same values.

    You’re totally right about how ridiculous it is to make girls feel responsible if they cause a sexual thought. I mean, wouldn’t you want your sons/daughters to have diverse friends, even ones with different values? Perhaps even some people who choose to dress immodestly? That’s what I would want, at least. Life is more interesting that way.

  3. Beezer, I respectfully disagree with just about everything you have posited here. As a male who does the “natural” urges. I can say with absolute certainty how a female dresses has a tremendous impact on my thoughts. This is the whole premise of pornography. If images of pioneers had the same psychological and physiological effect as girls in g-strings then Playboy and other comparable publications the Ensign would have a much wider distribution.

    I do think boys should be taught to respect women and to bridle their passions and I do not look at a girl that may be dressed in a manner I would term immodest as being at fault for inciting passion in one of my five male children. I think the people I sustain as church leaders have been very clear about the importance of modesty. From the “For the Strength of Youth” publication I include one quote:

    “Prophets of God have always counseled His children to dress modestly. The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside. Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you.”

    I do not like the shaming method of trying to promote change, I think President Hinkley was very clear on that account so on that point I think we are in agreement. Further I agree sexual response is normal and healthy but there are fashions that will contribute to behavior beyond the bounds “the Lord has set”.

    Love ya Beez!

  4. What I’m saying is that I think men will have thoughts no matter what, and that’s totally normal and natural. I support the Church’s stance on modesty as far as it does not state that the way we dress is to blame for the thoughts and behavior of others. This would imply that everyone has the same standard for modesty. One guy might get turned on by a girl in a tank top and another might be aroused by something else entirely. It’s not my role as a woman to make sure that the men I come across repress their sexual thoughts. They have to do that on their own. Not my job.

  5. I can tell you from personal experience that sex is AWKWARD/AWFUL between two sexually repressed individuals who were always taught that having sexual thoughts about members of the opposite sex is wrong. I mean we got used to it but the first couple times, sex was not good. TMI? Sorry.
    I respect this woman for having such strong convictions but so many things about her original article rubbed me all the wrong ways. As I said on Facebook (tongue in cheek), if your son can’t control their impulses when he sees a girl dressed immodestly, he should probably be in prison, not roaming the streets.

  6. I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I totally agree with the premise that the way someone dresses can’t be to blame for the behavior of others and maybe not the thoughts of others. I think it incredibly naive to think the way a person dresses has no ability to influence bother the dresser and the viewer. I do no think there is a person alive who believes that.

    Advertisers know with certainty that the way someone is dressed has a tremendous impact on viewers thoughts and resultant behaviors. Porn is a multi-billion dollar business because of the exploitation of those natural thoughts and drives. Saying thoughts can’t or shouldn’t be impacted by a visual portrayal is ridiculous…I dress a certain way and so do you to illicit a desired response from our target audience…The way we dress usually has an intentional effect on those around us.

    My feelings…people should not judge or try to shame others into changing dress or behavior. Standards should be taught and reinforced throughout life that will hopefully counteract the inevitable impulses, but I talk to people almost every week that had their attention grabbed by a picture or person that fed the natural desires until they have gained an addiction from which they are finding it very difficult to extricate themselves from…I find this to be the case with as many females as males…

    As to sex…there are many misguided notions from both ends of the spectrum. Those that teach sex is wrong or dirty are as totally misguided as those that think the act of intercourse should be a completely physical experience and should be enjoyed with as many partners as possible. This type of relationship, in my opinion, is the highest expression of unity between two people and is sacred. I do not think a lack of “experience” will make it awkward or worse though as you point out a misguided view of it certainly will.

  7. I have two teenage boys. Chad is right. And so is Ms. Hall. Hard enough to teach our boys to control their impulses and treat women/girls with dignity and respect when said women/girls are throwing provocative images in their faces.

    It is naive to say that boys are thinking about it no matter what.

  8. I never felt like my leaders in church were teaching me that the primary reason to dress modestly was to keep boys from having bad thoughts. I am the first counselor in the YW presidency right now and we don’t tell our girls to dress modestly because of the boys. Maybe you had a questionable teacher in YW? I don’t know. At the same time, I don’t see anything wrong with telling girls to help our boys out by not being half naked. Boys definitely do NOT look at swim suit models and girls wearing turtle necks the same. If that were the case lingerie would look really different:)

  9. I really agree with this. Just the other day I was talking with my sister in law who is about to get married. She is sad about having to dress modestly because she likes showing off her body. I told her that dressing modestly doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of your body it means you respect yourself and your husband and The Lord enough to save that beauty for your husband’s eyes only. Be proud and know that you are beautiful but don’t show the top of your bra off while at work save those puppies for your hubby. I agree that we should teach girls the proper way and honestly that is how it supposed to be taught in church as well. The info in the manuals I have read does not say a girl is responsible for a man’s thoughts but it talks about respecting your own body and not showing it off to every one. And I also agree that boys will think it regardless I once was wearin a very modest outfit and mentioned to a friend that having large boobs made me feel almost uncomfortable because of how some guys look at me. To add to the awkwardness a complete stranger that was walking by said, ‘I can guarantee every man who has looked at your chest has had a dirty thought’ and then walked away it was then that I realized I had to dress modestly for me and not to help the boys out. Also u took a class that talked about the beauty of sex within marriage and how wonderful it can be if you have made the proper promises first. That was a wonderful class and how I will choose to teach my children and those feelings and their self worth and modesty.

  10. Thanks for the comment Nat :) I think it’s naive to think they’re not. That was really my whole point. Mrs. Hall might shut down her laptop to shield her sons from seeing cleavage, but I guarantee they’ve thought about it. Perhaps not all boys are open about their sexual thoughts with their moms?
    I definitely understand dressing modestly so as not to encourage boys to look at women like sex objects, but saying that wearing immodest clothing is putting the thought in their heads is WAY off-base, or making the implication that we are responsible for the actions of the other sex is infuriating.
    Elizabeth Smart has stated that growing up having received an abstinence only education is what kept her a victim for so long. The damage that growing up being shielded from sex and related topics, and then being raped repeatedly for the majority of a year, will live in her brain forever. I wish we would stop tearing apart the female psyche by telling everyone that the way we dress is the root of sexually deviant behavior in males. We should teach our girls to dress modestly, and teach our boys to control their thoughts and impulses, and not teach that one (dressing modestly) causes the other (lack of control). That’s all. More of my two cents.

  11. My thought is that we should teach our girls not to prance about half naked. Period. Not because it helps boys to keep it in their pants, but because they are good people who have more respect for themselves than that. My thoughts are all really stemming from an experience in high school, when a jealous ex-boyfriend (Jason) told everyone in our graduating class that I had had sex with my boyfriend. He was applauded for “outing” me, and I was thought of as a slut my entire senior year. I was interviewed by seminary teachers, YW leaders, and our bishop, who all thought they should know what I had or had not done while Jason roamed the school with more friends than he had ever had in his life.
    There is a definite disconnect between male and female when it comes to sexuality. Males who have sex or expose females as “sluts” are applauded as girls are questioned and interrogated and rarely believed. And I know that a turtleneck is far less effective on its own than a swimsuit. I do get that. But I’m saying that if a guy is physically attracted to you, he is going to imagine what you look like under your turtleneck. Some other guys will do it just for funsies. I would be disappointed if I thought my husband was only attracted to me when I was naked or mostly naked.

    I’m just saying that as long as we’re trying to find a cure for male sexuality (and not sure why we would want to do that but Mrs. Hall seems to be taking a stab at it), walking around in a snowsuit is not it. You think in countries where women are required to wear burqas that men don’t have sexual thoughts about those women? Yeah… not entirely likely. Love you Meg :)

  12. No one has commented on how this all affects young men. I realize I’m about to offend everyone, but it’s an important subject, so here it comes: Mormonism is already one of the more guilt-inducing religions out there, and all of the consideration, or attention (or dare I use the word obsession?) about what guys are thinking only serves to increase the guilt they feel when the struggle to control their thoughts, or masturbate. Is the heavy emphasis on modesty even in all-Mormon places like BYU successful in keeping men from having sexual thoughts, or even from masturbating? No. It’s a pretty dismal failure. But it is successful in seriously harming many guys’ self-esteem and self-confidence. I don’t believe in thought-crime at all, and frankly, I wish everyone would stop obsessing so much about what guys might or might not privately be thinking.

  13. Bennion, I want you to know that as I’m reading this comment, there is a GoDaddy ad on the top of my screen with the text “Be the master of your own domain!” so I thought your masturbation comment particularly fitting.

    You’re absolutely right, and I should have brought that up at some point, but I kind of assumed you were all sexually depraved beings who were led entirely by your libido and kind of left it at that. ;)

    I don’t think we’re doing a great job as a culture at teaching our youth the great value of our sexuality. There is so much guilt associated with it and anyone who falls short of the Church’s standards of moral behavior is automatically labelled “rotten fruit” and “chewed up gum,” discounting other important principles such as “repentance,” and “the redeeming power of the Atonement.” Yikes!

    There ARE worse things in the world than men having “impure” thoughts, and it’s none of my business what those are. What is my business is teaching my boys, if I ever have sons, to learn to control those thoughts in an appropriate way and keep them out of prison.

  14. You know what kills intimacy in a marriage worse than sex-repression? PORNOGROPHY

    What our young men are up against nowadays is unfathomable. I’d rather my son be sex-repressed when he gets married than a porn addict. And we have a huge problem with pornography now because boys are being exposed at much younger ages and it is like being an alcoholic working in a liquor store (of COURSE I know they’re thinking about it!!). Their young minds simply don’t have the maturity and connection to their sex drive to simply “learn to control their thoughts in an appropriate way.” I only wish it were as simple as you make it sound Brittany. Is it our JOB to control their thoughts and impulses? Of course not, but you better believe I’m not going to be happy when the all but naked teenage girl is jumping all over my son at our local swimming pool while her mother smiles and coos at how adorable she looks in her strings. Thanks honey, I’m trying to teach him to respect and honor you as a woman but you’re so busy rubbing your chest in his face he’s going to struggle in comprehending the lesson.

    When you and your friends are raising teenage boys in current society then we can talk.

  15. Haha, that is really funny Brittany.

    Natalie, I really don’t think girls dressing modestly has much at all to do with keeping young men from viewing pornography. And it’s a bit condescending to suggest that we would have different views if we had teenage boys, or that our views are irrelevant because we don’t. Keep it polite.

  16. Bennion, true story. I think tomorrow I will go out in a burqa and if any woman asks me why, I will simply explain to her that I’m trying to keep her husband and sons from becoming porn addicts.

    Just doing my part here, folks. You’re very welcome.

    And with that, this thread is officially beaten to death. Thanks for participating, y’all. :)

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