Please Keep Telling the YW to Be Modest for the YM

June 16, 2011    By: Geoff J @ 8:04 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology,Modesty,Mormon Culture/Practices

The title of this post is a play on Julie’s recent post over at T&S. I have been stirring up trouble over there so I figured I’d use this unusual lapse in my blogging apathy to continue over here. [Update: Because I was mirroring the title of Julie's post in my title people seem to be jumping to wild conclusions about what this post must mean. Please read the actual post and at least my comment #2 before concluding you know what position I am taking here. The title probably would more accurately read "Tell the YW to Be Modest because of the nature of men". But that would not have been as fun so I didn't use it.]

I actually don’t disagree with everything Julie says there. But I think the headline and much of the premise is misguided.

Here is the fundamental question: If there were no sex in the world would there be any reason for modesty?

Actually our scriptural stories answer this one pretty clearly in the Adam and Eve story. Before the Fall and before sexual reproduction began Adam and Eve reportedly roamed freely in The Garden as naked as jaybirds. There is no indication that God minded this one bit. It is only after the couple was cast from the Garden and sexual reproduction became part of their world that modesty suddenly started to matter.

So the obvious fact is that modesty in the way we dress is all about sex. Which means young men (YM) are asked to be modest for the young women (YW) and the YW are asked to be modest for the YM.

Now the normal cry at this point is “I’m not responsible for anyone else’s sexual thoughts or behavior!!”. True enough. People are accountable for their own thoughts and actions. But we are responsible for what we say — both verbally and non-verbally. And how we dress communicates with others. In every society some ways of dressing say “I’m interested in attracting a sexual partner today” and other ways of dressing say “I’m not interested in attracting a sexual partner”. The former way of dressing is sometimes called “sexy” or any number of related things. The latter is often called less flattering things like “buttoned-down” or at worst “frumpy”. (I am imagining how my point about clothes communicating these things will freak some of you out… we’ll see I guess.)

Anyhow, every society has its own standards of modesty. The US is different than a tropical island nation or a strict Islamic nation. So clearly there is no universal standard. But I think it is pretty universal that when a person dresses more modestly than average for their culture they are sending the message “I’m not looking for a sexual partner today”. And of course that is the very message we Mormons want our unmarried young people to be sending out to all the potential sexual partners they encounter every day at school or wherever.

So the reason for YW to dress and behave modestly is indeed to communicate with the YM they encounter daily. Not just the Mormon young men but all of the men they encounter. The same is true for the YM dressing and behaving modestly — for them to communicate that they are not in the market for a sexual partner.

Of course I understand the complaints that YW are saddled with unnecessary guilt complexes at times when these reasons are poorly spelled out. To remedy that I am all for explaining things explicitly to people. My own YW daughters certainly get clear explanations. It seems to me that it is far wiser to fully embrace the sexual reasons behind our modesty standards rather than trying to invent other explanations for the practice.

So when I say YW should be modest for the YM, I really mean the reason for all people to be modest (or not) is to communicate intentions and proximate plans and desires to the opposite sex (aka potential mating partners).

[NOTE: Be sure to read at least the first few comments below. Kristine's excellent question elicited some responses from me in comment #2 that that I wish I had incorporated here in the original post.]

169 Comments »

  1. So, Geoff, how do men dress when they want to communicate that they are looking for a sexual partner? What would constitute “immodesty” in a boy’s clothing? Do boys EVER get sent home from dances for dressing immodestly? Do your sons get lectures about modest shorts and bathing suits for Scout camp? Of course not. They don’t have to dress any special way–girls and women are supposed to understand that men are ALWAYS looking for a sexual partner, and that it is their the girls’) responsibility to either encourage or resist this desire. The problem is that this discourse only runs one way–women are always objects, men always full sexual subjects. Women’s desire is not acknowledged, while men’s desire is said to be so potent that everyone of both genders has to be obsessed with it.

    If Elder Oaks had told the boys not to become living pornography for the girls, or if such a statement were even imaginable in the LDS discursive universe, your perfectly-reasoned, gender-neutrally-stated post might make sense. But that is not the rhetorical universe we live in. Mormon boys are not taught that their actions or appearance may arouse female desire and that they should therefore carefully construct their persona to appeal to this desire (or not). “Modesty” is about women as sexual objects. They can be or righteously resistant, properly-dressed objects of the male gaze or they can be provocative, willing objects, but they are always objects.

    As long as our understanding of modesty is rooted in this profoundly, fundamentally misogynist conception of human sexuality, there is no way to ask girls to be considerate of boys’ needs in a way that is either just or psychologically healthy for girls. (What this rhetoric of uncontrollable desire does to boys’ psyches is a rant for another night).

    Comment by Kristine — June 16, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

  2. Kristine: So, Geoff, how do men dress when they want to communicate that they are looking for a sexual partner?

    That is is excellent question Kristine. And I think evolutionary psychology can give us some good answers to it.

    The first thing is to recognize that in the human species females are the gatekeepers of sex. While humans can and do bridle their mammal selves in many cases, males of the species are evolutionarily designed to seek sex with most any willing female. On the other hand, females of the species are evolutionarily designed to be selective about who they mate with (for all kinds of good reasons). All of this serves to strengthen the species. As a result, if a woman really wanted to have consensual sex with a man (and she weren’t picky) she could achieve that goal within a day in the vast majority of cases. In contrast there are many, many men in the world who want to have consensual sex with a woman today and may not achieve that goal this year… or ever.

    So with that as a backdrop for the species, it only makes sense that men and women communicate their interest in finding a sexual partner differently. Men do it by seeking women giving them the green light. Women do it by giving the green light (or not). But since women are the gatekeepers, a lot more is riding on the signals/communications women are sending out because there are virtually always willing male takers for women who are giving the green light.

    So it is perfectly understandable given our evolutionary design that Mormon boys are taught not to seek girls who are giving the green light and to turn down the girls who do. Girls are taught not to give the green light. And dressing modestly is one important way to not give the green light.

    In my opinion it is a severe mistake to say that recognizing and adjusting our training to account for these rather intuitive facts about our species is misogynistic.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 16, 2011 @ 9:56 pm

  3. Thanks for the primer in evolutionary biology, Geoff. E.O. Wilson taught it a little more eloquently than you, but that’s ok.

    It seems to me that much of our religious practice is aimed at overcoming the tendencies our biology inflicts upon us since the Fall. It’s strange to me that in the area of gender roles and sexuality we’re so eager to embrace and reinforce the curse pronounced in the Garden.

    Comment by Kristine — June 16, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  4. Hehe. I know. As I have mentioned in a previous post, evolutionary psychology and Mormonism make strange bedfellows. But they are indeed bedfellows on many levels. I have a half-written post on that subject that I have been sitting on for a long time. The working title is “The Natural Man as Friend to God”. I plan to posit that it is really that unbridled natural man that is the problem.

    (And thanks for your patience with my lack of eloquence.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 16, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

  5. Kristine: I wonder if you would answer the challenge you pose to Geoff in #1: How to tell boys to not be “walking pornography,” or in what ways do men dress that communicates that they are looking for a sexual partner?

    Comment by BrianJ — June 16, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

  6. BrianJ,

    See my comment #2. Many/most men are instinctively looking for sexual partners no matter how they are dressed. But men aren’t the gatekeepers of consensual sex in our species.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 16, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  7. “It seems to me that it is far wiser to fully embrace the sexual reasons behind our modesty standards rather than trying to invent other explanations for the practice.”

    Amen.

    I don’t know if I’ll be able to explain my thoughts well on this, but I think another facet of why this is important ties into the reality that sexuality in God’s plan is not an individualized thing. It’s all about the bringing together of a (married) man and woman, which requires a great deal of desire to understand the other, care for the other, realize the impact one’s choices and behavior and weakness have on the other, etc.

    I can’t help but think that starting the youth on a trajectory of “it’s my life and these are my choices and your problems are yours to deal with” could make it harder for them to someday be healthy marriage (including sexual) partners in their future relationships. The interesting challenge is to help encourage that kind of understanding and empathy while helping them clearly keep the law of chastity (and understand why they should).

    But I think they are better equipped to keep the law of chastity (and, also to have a better marriage) if they have some clear understanding of the biological (and gendered) elements of sexuality, and how powerful sex is, either for good (as designed in the plan) or for ill (as perpetuated by the adversary’s distortions).

    Also, if modesty is taught differently to YW and YM, maybe that is simply a manifestation that men and women are different sexually.

    So in my mind, my response to “It’s strange to me that in the area of gender roles and sexuality we’re so eager to embrace and reinforce the curse pronounced in the Garden” is that I think that it’s like with anything else — until we understand the effects of the Fall, we can’t fully understand why we need the gospel of Jesus Christ. Modesty taught in the context of the gospel is a powerful principle in my mind.

    And, in fact, to me, modesty is a good springboard for having other discussions about the plan of salvation, about individual responsibility in that plan (including as that relates to sexuality), about love and respect, about the laws of God and why we have them, etc.

    Comment by michelle — June 17, 2011 @ 2:25 am

  8. “Many/most men are instinctively looking for sexual partners no matter how they are dressed.”

    Can I add that “Many/most men are instinctively looking for sexual partners no matter how good of a person they are”? I think sometimes women can punish men for this element of their (generally speaking) natural make-up, where I think we need to be more respectful of the battle even most good men fight to stay pure and to be the respectful men God commands them to be.

    Comment by michelle — June 17, 2011 @ 2:42 am

  9. Well, if evolutionary biology is our friend, Geoff, why aren’t we having EQ lessons on keeping your affairs discreet, so that your natural mildly polygynous tendencies aren’t so painful to your wife, and RS lessons on being kind and accommodating of your husband’s affairs. Exactly when does evolutionary biology stop being a justification for sexist double standards?

    Comment by Kristine — June 17, 2011 @ 5:00 am

  10. Geoff,
    The notion that women are the gatekeepers of sex is a fanciful myth. Dudes achieve sexual climax all the time without actual women being present. Heck, they achieve it without women present too, but that isn’t the focus, the climax is (this is what I was trying to say on the other thread). Psychologically, people like the reward that sexual climax provides. Evolutionarily, that has been good, because it can lead to sexual intercourse and babies. But it never has to. If we limit ourselves to satisfying evolutionary impulses, then sitting around the basement and surfing the web for pron really would be sufficient.

    Now it doesn’t appear that you are arguing that. It appears that you are arguing that embracing the sexual is just great, so long as we properly channel it into a mutually satisfying, monogamous relationship which has been sanctioned by God in some way. That’s great, but it isn’t the same thing as saying it is totally okay for guys to always be on the prowl for new sexual partners. So you need to distinguish the good and the bad (as Kristine suggests).

    That said, is teaching women that they are the gatekeepers helpful? It does offer a sop to girls who feel like they are otherwise powerless in society. It does teach girls that their virginity is of critical importance to their self-worth (up to a point, after which it doesn’t matter at all). It does lead to the general belief that if a girl is raped, it could somehow be her fault (maybe her clothes were suggestive; only girls looking for it go into that neighborhood). It does reduce people to their external signifiers and it assumes that people can accurately read those signifiers in any situation.

    I think that the question we should be asking ourselves, regarding this gatekeeper business, is WWZD? Consider that for a moment.

    Comment by John C. — June 17, 2011 @ 5:43 am

  11. It’s extremely bad evolutionary psychology to project our decidedly modern notions of rational human behavior onto our distant past. In our evolution as a species, what we would now call consensual intercourse was, for females, an extremely rare exception. Any theory of human sexuality that doesn’t acknowledge that is just neoclassical economics masquerading as evolutionary biology. Sex was never, never a free, rational, mutual transaction of mutual benefit during the hundreds of thousands of generations during which the distinctive features of homo sapien sociosexual and reproductive behavior complexes evolved.

    All of which says literally nothing about the impact that culture, higher cognition, male male cooperation, symbolic and abstract reasoning, the emergence of socially enforced monogamous strong pair bonding (not typically present in cooperative social mammals but possible for humans because of symbolic language and abstract reasoning) had and continue to have on the behaviors in question. The hyper sexualization of femininity and the rigorous commodification of female sexuality are fairly recent cultural phenomena, not at all reducible to the fact that males evolved to take visual cues about reproductive fitness from certain physical features of the female body.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 6:27 am

  12. Human females are not the gatekeepers of sexual intimacy, they never have been, and to teach them that they are is also to teach males that they are not.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 6:54 am

  13. But I think it is pretty universal that when a person dresses more modestly than average for their culture they are sending the message “I’m not looking for a sexual partner today”. And of course that is the very message we Mormons want our unmarried young people to be sending out to all the potential sexual partners they encounter every day at school or wherever.

    Geoff J., I think this is a mistake. Frumpy, dowdy dress sends the message that you’re not looking for a sexual partner. Modest dress that is alluring and attractive–that takes advantage of the cultural conventions for one’s sex without being too revealing–sends the message that you’re looking for a sexual partner but in the model of courtship and commitment. Whereas clothing that shows off a girl mainly as [wanton] sends a different message about the sexual partnership one is looking for.

    Modesty, in my opinion, is not about a suppression of one’s sex. It’s a way of signaling that one wishes to express that sex–in marriage and the mythic union of complements.

    Comment by Adam G. — June 17, 2011 @ 7:06 am

  14. Kristine (#9),

    I already alluded to my answer to your question here but to be more clear, I see the Mormon position as being that the unbridled natural man is the enemy to God but the bridled natural man is God’s friend. Therefore adultery is always off limits with God but properly practiced polygyny has occasionally been acceptable to God throughout history.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 8:09 am

  15. John C (#10): The notion that women are the gatekeepers of sex is a fanciful myth. Dudes achieve sexual climax all the time without actual women being present

    John your second sentence completely undermines your first sentence here. If masturbation were just as desirable to men as sex with an actual woman there would be precious few marriages in this world.

    But you are simply wrong on this one. Men are evolutionarily designed to want to have sex with women. This instinctual desire is what propagates our species. Masturbation is something men settle for in most cases.

    That said, is teaching women that they are the gatekeepers helpful?

    Well since it is true — yes. Far better than trying to invent some made up alternate reality.

    It does lead to the general belief that if a girl is raped, it could somehow be her fault

    Nonsense. No means no. I went out of my way in the post to say that women are the gatekeepers of consensual sex. We all realize that there are rapists in the world too.

    It does reduce people to their external signifiers and it assumes that people can accurately read those signifiers in any situation.

    I don’t see how acknowledging the existence of our non-verbal communications reduces people in any way.

    WWZD?

    I have a feeling this means something amusing… sorry that I don’t recognize it.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 8:18 am

  16. Brad (#11),

    First, welcome to the Thang. I feel like we have gotten off on the wrong foot elsewhere but you seem like a smart guy with useful things to teach so I look forward to interacting with you.

    Second, I don’t think I said our primordial ancestors behaved like we do now. Where are you getting the impression that I did say that?

    Third, I contend that the human social practices regarding sex that have arisen over the last many thousand years are influenced by and conducive to our our evolutionary history. In other words, these things fit together perfectly and organically.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 8:25 am

  17. Brad,

    I think your assertion in #12 is poppycock. But I am interested in hearing your arguments to the contrary.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 8:28 am

  18. What do you mean by bridled vs unbridled will power or enlightenment?

    Comment by Howard — June 17, 2011 @ 8:34 am

  19. Adam G (#13),

    You are misunderstanding the time frame I was referring to in that passage you quoted. Wearing clothes that signal “No sex for you tonight fellas” is a short term, proximate message. Certainly the Mormon young people who dress modestly are interested in attracting long term committed mates in the appropriate time and place.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 8:34 am

  20. Howard,

    By “bridled” I mean self-controlled and self-directed behavior. I mean steering natural passions, appetites, and instincts according to instructions given by God.

    I like the word bridled here because it evokes images of powerful horses that can be extremely dangerous or extremely useful depending on how they are handled.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 8:38 am

  21. Part of the issue here is suggesting that one gender can (and should) control what another gender does. Men who wish to control what young women wear. Women who wish to control a young man’s libido.

    In Kristine’s OP on that other site, she pointed out that our young men have plenty of immodestly clothed women to look at in the world.

    Our young women’s choice to dress modestly will not prevent our young men from seeing immodestly dressed women. Our young women and our young men can indeed each behave in a way that supports the others’ standards, but teaching young women that the primary reason for their modesty is the protection of the young men is flawed.

    #7 Michelle, we do not need to make protection of the young men the sole reason for teaching our young women to dress modestly in order to provide “some clear understanding of the biological (and gendered) elements of sexuality, and how powerful sex is, either for good (as designed in the plan) or for ill (as perpetuated by the adversary’s distortions).”

    Indeed, one of the adversary’s distortions is that women are responsible for men’s sexuality because of how they dress.

    We believe that men will be punished for their own sins…

    Comment by Paul — June 17, 2011 @ 8:40 am

  22. Enlightenment and autonomy come from knowledge self-control may simply be will power or obedience the glory of God is intelligence if we want to be God’s friend isn’t the former better? Aren’t the beatitudes a higher law than the ten commandments?

    Comment by Howard — June 17, 2011 @ 8:46 am

  23. Paul: Our young women’s choice to dress modestly will not prevent our young men from seeing immodestly dressed women.

    Obviously. So to repeat myself from earlier (comment #2):

    it is perfectly understandable given our evolutionary design that Mormon boys are taught not to seek girls who are giving the green light and to turn down the girls who do. Girls are taught not to give the green light. And dressing modestly is one important way to not give the green light.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 8:58 am

  24. Geoff J., #19,

    OK, makes sense. Your point is that dressing in a way that says I’m looking for sex and the whole man-woman thing in the context of courtship and commitment also says I’m not looking for sex to happen right now.

    With that clarification, I agree with everything you’ve said here.

    Comment by Adam G. — June 17, 2011 @ 9:13 am

  25. Thanks for this post Geoff. I agree that it makes no sense to deny basic truths about human sexuality in order to accomodate academic theories that some are so wedded to.

    I have personally tossed teenage boys from dances for immodest dress and behavior. The sword can cut both ways. We recently had boys walking around in muscle shirts/sagging pants and preening for the girls attention on Wed night. We ended that as well.

    Comment by bbell — June 17, 2011 @ 9:22 am

  26. Women did not evolve as gatekeepers of sex because for them to have done so would have implied something like meaningful consensual choice on their parts leading to sexual selection. Women freely selecting their reproductive partners is an extremely recent historical anomaly, and stands in rather stark contrast to our evolved sexual behaviors. It was not female sexual selection that favored or rewarded male offspring provision but rather the provision itself. Unlike other mammals, humans birth extremely neuro developmentally premature babies (due to our unusually large cranial cavities coupled with the very narrow pelvic inlets of our bipedal gate) and our offspring are unusually dependent on adult provision for survival. But while humans are quite sexually dimorphic (cf male control over copulation), human males are unusually egalitarian and cooperative, which militates against male offspring provision. This is because socially cooperative males don’t aggressively compete for sexual access to females the way, say, gorillas do. But male offspring provision can only be selected for when the adult males are provisioning offspring which are actually genetically theirs. So, in the animal kingdom, alpha males in social groups characterized by aggressive male male hierarchy provision and protect offspring, but males in relatively egalitarian social groups don’t because, since there is no way of aligning male provision with genetic offspring, there is no evolutionary mechanism to select in its favor. So in early humans you had imperatives for offspring provision arising from our unique locomotion and big brains which contradicted the imperatives which underpinned the most productive foraging strategy (cooperative hunting), ie male cooperation. Symbolic language resolved the impass by furnishing males with socially enforceable privileged sexual access to particular females in the form of the strong pair bond. The evolutionary impasse provided selective support for the emergence of symbolic language, abstract reasoning, and the first forms of something like property relations. In something like a proto marriage contract, the abstract social role of wife emerged as the negative space in a rudimentary social contract among males that regulated reproductive access to females qua sexual property. The human behavioral category of “consensual female sex” is simply not a part of our evolutionary history or even the vast majority of our more recent history. What has, however, enjoyed a long history in human behavior is the blaming of women with their tempting sexual forms for patterns of sexual behavior over which males have exercised, individually and sociopolitically, almost total control.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 9:29 am

  27. bbell, which specific truths about human sexuality did Julie’s post deny in the service of which specific academic theories? Care to clarify?

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  28. Geoff, as you note in the post, cultures are different. Within 24 hours I can leave an island nation where it is common for women to be topless on the beach, arrive in the U.S. with our culturally accepted forms of dress, and then fly to Saudi Arabia. In all three cases I am expected to control my own sexual behavior without reference to what the women around me are wearing. This is what adults do, and I think it is past time that our YM got used to the idea of being a grownup. I cannot understand how that is even controversial.

    Here is the downside to teaching YW that they are responsible for the sexual behavior of the YM around them: We raise a bunch of moronic, brain-dead men, cf. the ones at BYU who complain to the administration that women sunning themselves in shorts and tank tops on the pool deck are causing them to have thoughts that will make them unworthy to serve missions. Remember the controversy about the shoulder bags which some of our he-men at BYU wanted to get banned? Probably the most egregious case is the one at the MTC where the elders in a district complained that the two sisters’ figures (even under their super-modest, sister missionary clothing) were distracting them from their studies, so they complained to the administration of the MTC. Incredibly enough, the MTC administration required the sisters to start wearing baggy sweaters to class so as to not be a distraction to these infantile and stupid young men we have produced. I shudder to think what they will do in a few more weeks when they are teaching a charla in Uruguay and their female investigator casually unbuttons her shirt and starts nursing her baby.

    Comment by Mark Brown — June 17, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  29. Brad (#26),

    Interesting stuff. But you seem to me missing the elephant in the room: It is really hard for a male human to have sex with a female human who doesn’t want to have sex. And the large brain you mentioned allows females to decide when they want to have sex or not. Therefore females are indeed the gatekeepers of sex in our species.

    So while the points you made are interesting and useful. It doesn’t change the facts on the ground.

    Further, even in cases where girls were assigned to men in a tribe/clan as sexual property there were always cases of cuckoldry as well. That is because women are evolutionarily predisposed to want to mate with males who can provide the best genes for their offspring and the best protection/resources for their offspring. But as you implied, the alpha male dynamic and history of polygyny among humans often created situations where women mated with the most genetically superior and resource-rich male to begin with.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 10:10 am

  30. Mark Brown,

    I thought I had made my point clear but apparently I haven’t. So once and for all let me emphatically say that I am NOT claiming YW that they are responsible for the sexual behavior of the YM around them.

    Rather I am saying that YW are responsible for the way they communicate their immediate sexual plans and desires and that the way women dress is an important way of communicating those immediate plans and desires.

    Also, the Mormon boys are not the issue in most cases anyway. In my experience Mormon young men tend to be more self-disciplined and more respectful of young women on average than non Mormons. See my recent post for examples.

    However, there are obviously some morons among our people too (as your examples illustrate).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 10:21 am

  31. You didn’t seriously use the oldest and tiredest rape defense in the world to try to support your claim that virtually all female sex in hunan and hominid history is freely consensual, did you?

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 10:25 am

  32. Nope.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 10:27 am

  33. Until very, very recently, most human female sexual intercourse was not freely consensual in anything like the modern libertarian sense, and women were treated as sexual property. The fact that forcible rape is physically strenuous for males in no way obviates that fact, especially since in a social setting in which female consent is ignored or even meaningless, forcible rape is neither the only nor primary means of securing female sexual submission. These patterns have been in place for hundreds of thousands of years longer than humans have even been wearing clothes, much less using them to accentuate sexual desire.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  34. I get the feeling you think I disagree with you on that Brad. Did you read my comment #30 all the way though? Did you miss the part where I said “girls were assigned to men in a tribe/clan as sexual property”?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  35. There can be no sexual selection by females when makes are in control of reproductive coupling. That has been the norm for virtually all of human and proto human evolutionary history. Women did not evolve as gatekeepers of human and/or make sexuality. Treating them as such is a cheap way of holding them responsible for behavioral patterns over which men have historically exercised almost absolute social control. A process which continues even today in forms of social control which emphasize female responsibility for policing the sexual behavior of males bedevilled by their sexually enticing bodies.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  36. It’s strange to me that in the area of gender roles and sexuality we’re so eager to embrace and reinforce the curse pronounced in the Garden.

    That doesn’t necessarily follow from what Geoff is saying. As Geoff describes it, the “fallen” male model of procreation is to impregnate as many women as possible and let the chips fall where they may. The female model is to bond with one man who will continually seek the welfare of any resulting children. What the Church is trying to do is concede that the male model is “fallen” (after all, we still refer to it as the fall of Adam) and trying to get us to buy into the female model–which has a lot of implications I won’t get into here. The only implication I will pursue is that female immodesty reminds us that the other model is still available to us. One could even characterize it as evidence that some women are buying into the fallen male model.

    Comment by Last Lemming — June 17, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  37. Geoff J., your ideas about evolutionary psychology are pure just-so stories and not at all scientific. There is a long history of people trying to use science to justify their prejudices and temporary cultural practices, such as the 19th c. scientific assertions that blacks and asians were inferior to white people, and so on. Your assertions are in that fine tradition. Please read Stephen Jay Gould on The Mismeasure of Man for a solid debunking of this whole idea by an excellent scientist and historian of science.

    It is fraught with difficulty for any scientist to try to study these sorts of cultural questions, and the history of ugly falsehoods promoted in the name of science to justify slavery, racism, sexism, classism, anti-Irish sentiment, anti-Jewish sentiment, and on and on is quite long. I do not believe what you think you know about this question is true.

    Making women the gatekeepers puts all the responsibility on them and conveniently takes it off men, who typically have much more power in our society, and therefore more scope for action.

    A focus on modesty has the effect of chaining women to certain roles in life, mostly to do with how they look, since modest clothing historically and typically makes many jobs impossible for women to carry out, makes many types of play impossible for young girls to engage in, and so on. My anti-modesty stance is about freedom for women to carry out their legitimate pursuits in life, and has little to do with sex, unless it’s about the rights of women to be sexual beings without implying consent to any and all males they encounter.

    Comment by Tatiana — June 17, 2011 @ 11:36 am

  38. A thinly veiled Nazi comparison, I see this discussion is going well…

    Comment by Jacob J — June 17, 2011 @ 11:45 am

  39. #23, 30 Geoff: then perhaps you should change your headline.

    Comment by Paul — June 17, 2011 @ 11:47 am

  40. Jacob, considering that the conversation only lasted 29 comments before a classic rape defense was used to rationalize holding women responsible for the sexual proclivities of men, I’d say the bar was already pretty low…

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 11:52 am

  41. 29: “It is really hard for a male human to have sex with a female human who doesn’t want to have sex.”

    Oh, is it? Is that why 1 in 4 American women will be raped in their lifetime?

    Comment by missy. — June 17, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

  42. I don’t know that I completely agree.

    Of course, I’m willing to admit that my perspective might be biased because I have experienced and observed many cases of sexual predation on the modest, as well as the type of dynamic you describe.

    In other words, I think there are plenty of men who deliberately seek to prey on women who are modest. At least as many as those who seek to prey only on the more easily available ones.

    Comment by SilverRain — June 17, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

  43. geoff says: “So the reason for YW to dress and behave modestly is indeed to communicate with the YM they encounter daily. Not just the Mormon young men but all of the men they encounter. The same is true for the YM dressing and behaving modestly — for them to communicate that they are not in the market for a sexual partner.”

    I am not on the market for a sexual partner: my husband beds me frequently and well thank you very much. (Plus, I have a good amount of sex with myself.) Sexually satisfied. Not on the market, thanks.

    I dress like a slut because I like how I look in sleeveless tops and short shorts. AND because I live in a hot desert location.

    Yeah, my husband enjoys it when I show the flesh, but it’s not for him I dress this way.

    Yeah, I get a lot of looks from men (and women) and they are extra nice to me when I’m wearing the tiny sundress, but I could care less, it’s not for them I wear it.

    It’s for me. It’s comfy, it’s airy, it is an awesome shade of yellow. And I like how I look. I like me.

    imho LDS pre-occupation with chastity causes more problems for the YM/YW than my bare shoulders and exposed knees ever will.

    Comment by Eliza R — June 17, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

  44. Ok — back from the movies with one of my YW daughters. (Her Father’s Day present to me. We saw Super 8 and enjoyed it.) So on to some responses.

    Brad (#35): I generally agree that it is likely that human (proto-human?) women 100,000 years ago had less sexual selection power than women 10,000 years ago and that women now have the most selective power in the history of our species. But again I bring up cuckoldry. The practice of women making sexual selections on their own and against the wishes of their nominal mates is as old as the hills too. So you are just plain wrong when you imply that women anciently had zero sexual selection power. They always had some and that power has been increasing among our species for tens of thousands of years.

    But all of this is probably moot because my contention is that today women are the gatekeepers of sex. That is an obvious fact. Women decide when sex will happen and with whom. Men are left to convince women to choose them as the sexual partner (and I fully recognize that in the worst of cases rapes happen).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  45. Tatiana (#36): Geoff J., your ideas about evolutionary psychology are pure just-so stories and not at all scientific.

    No duh. But the same is true for most contrary theories modern feminists love to bandy around. And at least the evolutionary psychologists have theories that make intuitive sense.

    Making women the gatekeepers puts all the responsibility on them and conveniently takes it off men

    Snort! Fine, so tell me how the simple observations I made in comment #2 aren’t really true. Here it is again:

    As a result, if a woman really wanted to have consensual sex with a man (and she weren’t picky) she could achieve that goal within a day in the vast majority of cases. In contrast there are many, many men in the world who want to have consensual sex with a woman today and may not achieve that goal this year… or ever.

    A focus on modesty has the effect of chaining women to certain roles in life

    Talk about “just-so” stories! What science are you using to back that claim Tatiana?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  46. Using a mythic tale to support the argument that modesty ought not be explained with “invented” reasons? Whatevers.

    Comment by Matt — June 17, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  47. Speaking from experience I think the way most woman dress has more to do with attention, fashion, comfort or self esteem both positive and negative. With the exception of hookers I doubt their choice of what Mormons find immodest has much to do with being interested in “attracting a sexual partner today” or when dressing modestly “not looking for a sexual partner today” have you ever spent time looking at St John fashions stunning but modestly understated elegance is anything more fashionable that that? YW are different in that they are both fashion and sexually naive and more hormonally motivated but how many of them are actually saying “I’m interested in attracting a sexual partner today?” Aren’t they really saying they want attention?

    Comment by Howard — June 17, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

  48. Jacob (#38) — Ha!

    Missy (#41) — Sadly it would probably be 4 out of 4 if it weren’t kind of difficult and dangerous (and heinous).

    SilverRain (#42) — That is a valid point. I never claimed the messages sent by dressing modestly would be a 100% foolproof letch repellant. I simply pointed out the fact that dressing more modestly than average sends clear messages to potential sexual partners. Some predators and lecherous losers will ignore all those messages anyway.

    Eliza R (#43) — I hope you will be pleased to learn that I don’t care how you dress.

    Matt (#46) — If you are gonna talk smack in a drive-by comment at least leave some smack talk that elicits more than a yawn.

    Howard (#47) — Of course I am not saying people consciously are attracting sexual partners. Rather people behave these ways based primarily evolutionarily driven instinct.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  49. To frame even cuckoldry as an exercise in unfettered female sexual autonomy is wildly tendentious. The fact that some women, in historical and cultural contexts in which the notion of “consent” is non existent and women are treated as reproductive resources for brokering familial and political alliance (all of which is the rule and not the exception in human history), sometimes sexually submit to powerful men who are not those assigned to them by the patriarchal conventions of their particular social reality does not make them fully free, sexually autonomous beings who are in any sense the gatekeepers of male sexual behavior. Even today, women who enjoy full sexual autonomy are in the global minority. You simply cannot argue that the limited and highly historically and culturally anomalous phenomenon of a social structure that privileges female sexual consent has its roots in something called “evolutionary psychology.”

    I don’t know how to make it clearer that notwithstanding the various strategies (again, most of them still centered on male choosing power over female sexual property) that constitute exceptions to their normative cultural contexts, ours, as a species, is a cultural-evolutionary history characterized not by female control over male sexual behavior but by relentless, multifaceted, and virtually uniform male individual, social, economic, political, and ideological control over female sexuality.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

  50. I am so horrified and repulsed by your response in 48 that I can’t even form an intelligible response. I’d like to give men enough credit to think that they aren’t all rapists-in-waiting. I mean, if rape wasn’t so difficult and dangerous FOR MEN, of course.

    Yeesh.

    Comment by missy. — June 17, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

  51. “unfettered female sexual autonomy”? Come on Brad. Seriously — do you even read my comments? Where did I even imply “unfettered”?

    Listening to your version of reality one would think human females have the least sexual autonomy of all the primates. That is laughably silly.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

  52. Geoff (#48), there’s no competing with the troll-ish excitement this post has unleashed on the internets today. Congrats. :D

    Comment by Matt — June 17, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

  53. Well missy (#50), turn on the news once in a while. The atrocities that happen are mind-boggling. (A smallish number of evil and unfettered men can do unspeakable damage). Luckily Mormon men are among the highest caliber in the world so you are in good company with them.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

  54. Of course I am not saying people consciously are attracting sexual partners. Rather people behave these ways based primarily evolutionarily driven instinct. In other words how their dress is perceived by men?

    Comment by Howard — June 17, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

  55. 53- I’m well aware, Geoff, of the nature and extent of the oppression of women across the world. I’m well aware of the culture of sexual violence against women that permeates the globe. Your version of evolutionary history provides a theoretical framework in which this kind of violence is normalized and even justified. And if we continue to teach young men that urges toward sexual domination are evolutionary (and that women are useful sexual objects who consent to sexual advances by wearing certain kids of t-shirts), we can expect to see sexual violence continue, in all its forms.

    I’ve lived in a lot of different places and around a lot of different men, and I disagree with you that Mormon men are somehow of a different caliber than other men. In fact, this post confirms that prejudice and sexism can wear many different cultural robes.

    Matt-52- that’s because it’s reprehensible.

    Comment by missy. — June 17, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  56. Geoff (53), and how exactly are Mormon men “among the highest caliber in the world”? What makes them different from your average man? Other than that their young women have been well instructed in how not to tempt them, that is?

    Comment by Matt — June 17, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  57. Here is the fundamental question: If there were no sex in the world would there be any reason for modesty?

    This is the problem with the teaching of modesty within the church. For some reason, we’ve reduced the broad definition of modesty (and virtue for that matter) into something much narrower. It’s to the point where “immodesty” has become synonymous with “lasciviousness”, even though it’s not.

    Modesty is much broader than making sure we wear clothing that doesn’t excite others sexually. It’s also about being conservative in how we dress or groom ourselves; it’s about not taking such to extreme.

    Modesty also covers such things as humility, propriety, and decency.

    When the church keeps focusing on sex, is it any wonder its youth do, too?

    Comment by Kim Siever — June 17, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

  58. Female chimps and bonobos (our two closest genetic relatives) have considerably more sexual autonomy than 99% of homo sapien females who have ever lived.

    Way to bring your A game, Missy.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

  59. missy (#55) — You starting to emit a trollish aroma… That is usually a bad sign. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for now.

    I have to chuckle at your comments that if the world really is the way I say (you know with evolution being real and all) that somehow “justifies” violence. That logic is so inane I won’t even address other than to say that makes absolutely no sense at all.

    Further, read the post and the thread next time before talking because you are just sounding silly. I never made any claims about “sexual domination” here. You made that up.

    I disagree with you that Mormon men are somehow of a different caliber than other men

    My compliment mostly applies to the Christlike men in the church who actually believe and practice what the church preaches. There are a lot of them. Maybe you were hanging with the wrong ones.

    Matt (#56) — What makes [Mormon men] different from your average man?

    They are disciples of Jesus Christ and try to be like Him. (duh)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

  60. Brad,

    You seem to think you are scoring some important debate points by insisting human women had virtually no sexual autonomy tens of thousands of years ago. But none of my arguments here hinge on that specific point. So why keep harping on it?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

  61. Because the argument that women’s status as gatekeepers of sexuality has its roots in evolutionary psychology does hinge on it. And it’s far from limited to tens of thousands of years ago. The majority of women alive today do not have the ability to exercise enough reproductive autonomy to effect anything like sexual selection. Your evolutionary arguments are non-starters.

    And trust me, dismissing Missy and treating her as a troll is not a good way to diminish the embarrassment you’ve caused yourself with this conversation.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  62. Geoff, re-read your own 48. You are the one who asserted that “if it weren’t kind of difficult and dangerous” every single man on earth would be a rapist because they are evolutionary/biologically predisposed to do so. I don’t buy that for a second. Men exploit and abuse women because it is a culturally-sanctioned activity. Period.

    Comment by missy. — June 17, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

  63. Bwaha! That nerdy blog-threat in your last line of #61 is hilarious Brad. Good one.

    As for the argument — female humans do indeed have an evolutionarily driven incentive to mate with males of superior genes. They also have an evolutionarily driven incentive to couple with males who will protect and provide for them. That is why cuckoldry has always been a part of human culture because the men with the best genes were not always the men who would best protect and provide.

    I do concede that external factors can limit the mating choices of women to some degree. But that is largely moot. There has always been some choice even if the choices were limited.

    So since I won’t convince you on that and I find your arguments completely unpersuasive we can just call this an impasse.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  64. missy.,

    Yes please do read my comment in #48. I mean the actual words and not the extra meanings you are overlaying on it.

    Look, I didn’t say and I didn’t mean all men would be rapists given the opportunity. I said that there would be a lot more rapes in the world if there were a lot of easy opportunities for rape. That’s because there are a small percentage of horrible people in the world. This assertion is hardly earth shattering so you have no good reason to be freaking out about it.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

  65. It’s not a threat, Geoff. It’s an observation that you have branded yourself as a misogynist ass. Though I guess that would entail actual embarassment only to the extent that you consider a reputation as a misogynist to be a bad thing, and it could be reasonably argued that this thread constitutes powerful evidence that you feel otherwise.

    Saying that women have an evolutionary interest in reproducing with genetically superior mates is simply to state a self evident truism that applies equally to all sexually reproducing life forms. It in no way affirms your claim that women are gatekeepers or that there is an evolutionary basis for their status as such.

    Am I surprised that you find arguments that you don’t understand unpersuasive? Not in the least.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

  66. Brad,

    Anyone who dares cross a hardcore bloggernacle feminist (both the male and the female variety) or who questions modern feminist orthodoxy about the way the world is gets branded a misogynist ass. I think I’ll survive.

    Nice try calling me stupid at the end there too. Keep trying little feller. One of these days you’ll come up with a more clever zinger than “you’re a dummyhead”.

    Again, thanks for stopping by.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  67. Reducing my arguments on this thread to some form or another of personal attack on your intellect is not a very good way of demonstrating your grasp of said arguments. And it doesn’t matter if you erase my comments, you’re still completely wrong about rape.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  68. Hardcore bloggernacle feminists question feminist orthodoxy all the time. But ask me if I’m surprised that you’ve once again resorted to blaming uppity women…

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  69. Geoff re: 54 Of course I am not saying people consciously are attracting sexual partners. Rather people behave these ways based primarily evolutionarily driven instinct. In other words how their dress is perceived by men?

    To clarify my unanswered question above are you saying subconsciously females dress in a way that says “I’m interested in attracting a sexual partner today”? Or are you saying males subconsciously interpret their dress to mean that? Or both?

    Comment by Howard — June 17, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

  70. Both.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

  71. So a female who believes she is dressing for attention, fashion, comfort or self esteem by showing some skin is actually shopping for a sexual partner? Isn’t this similar to the she asked for it rape defense?

    Comment by Howard — June 17, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

  72. Alright Brad (#67 and #68). I see you didn’t take the hint with my repeated “thanks for stopping by” comments. But seriously, all you can come up with in parting is another variation on “you’re a dummyhead”? So unimaginative. You do so much intellectual preening elsewhere I expected more…

    Finally, let the record show that you referred to your orthodox feminist self as an uppity woman in #68.

    (I kid, I kid!)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

  73. Geoff, this conversation has brought out the jerkwad in me, and that’s pretty unreasonable considering that we likely agree on much more than we disagree. It was uncalled for, and for what it’s worth, I apologize.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

  74. Howard (#71),

    I think that oversimplifies things. There is undoubtedly a wide variety of influences on personal choices. Our evolutionary heritage is surely one of those influences. And no, that is not similar to “she asked for it” claims.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  75. Brad (#73),

    No worries mate. I have a nasty habit of pushing people’s buttons sometimes so I apologize as well. You have some useful insights. I hope we cross paths more in the future.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  76. Likewise, Geoff.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

  77. “Michelle, we do not need to make protection of the young men the sole reason for teaching our young women to dress modestly”

    No one is saying that is the sole reason, though. I certainly am not.

    Comment by michelle — June 17, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

  78. Well, I got left behind in this conversation.

    My question in #5 was never answered, not even by Geoff’s #2. Oh well.

    As for human evolution, I got lost in Brad’s logic: he seems to argue that anciently human females had no power say in mate selection, then argues that females of our closest relatives (other great apes) have enormous power in mate selection. Sorry, but if there’s a long-standing (i.e., millions of years) setup then the implications of that on evolutionary psychology aren’t going to be erased in a few 10′s of thousands. Thus, Geoff, I don’t think you should be so quick to accept Brad’s counterargument:

    I generally agree that it is likely that human (proto-human?) women 100,000 years ago had less sexual selection power than women 10,000 years ago and that women now have the most selective power in the history of our species….

    Comment by BrianJ — June 17, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

  79. geoff respondes(48): “Eliza R (#43) — I hope you will be pleased to learn that I don’t care how you dress.”

    well then, here’s a thought Geoff, Maybe instead of expending your energy telling the YW that wearing a tank top is the equivalent of prowling for a sexual partner, you could expend your energy helping the YM attain the same level of non-nonchalance (and hopefully non-judgment) you have when faced with someone wearing a tank top.

    Talk about real life skillz.

    just sayin.

    Comment by Eliza R — June 17, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

  80. BrianJ (#78) — Interesting point.

    Eliza R (#79) — I actually only tell two young women how to dress. My 12 and 14 year old daughters. This post is more about the wisdom of the current modesty standards and teachings of the church. If you want to follow some other dress standard of your choosing knock yerself out.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

  81. Brian, both assertions are correct, without contradiction. Anatomically modern humans and their immediate predecessors have been largely characterized by female reproductive submission to cooperative but socially and physically more powerful males. We’re talking on a time scale of ~1.5 m years. On our evolutionary family tree we diverged from our closest living genetic cousins (chimps and bonobos, whose females enjoy relatively unconstrained reproductive autonomy) ~6 m years ago. It is very common for close genetic relatives to have very different behavioral complexes. For example, chimps, an incredibly social primate species, are also closely related to orangutans, which are almost totally anti social.

    Comment by Brad — June 17, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

  82. The irony of all this is the fact that for most LDS Young Women, “immodest” dress means a tank top and shorts that don’t hit the knee. Seriously, how many of our Young Women are actually dressing immodestly?

    So, as distasteful as I find the opening post, I have to laugh out loud at the notion that my 14 year old daughter was somehow cruising for sex because she was showing the top 3 inches of her arms.

    BTW, I find white dress shirts and red power ties to be amazingly attractive. So, you’ll understand if I can’t manage to stop myself from raping my bishop the next time I see him.

    Good grief.

    Comment by pinkpatent — June 17, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

  83. Congratulation on being the latest knucklehead to completely miss this point of this post and discussion pinkpatent. (What has become of reading comprehension skills these days??)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

  84. Funny how only the people who kiss your a$$ are smart and the rest of us are knuckleheads.

    Comment by pinkpatent — June 17, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

  85. Not so. Brad is smart and he was anything but in agreement with my post. But at least he understood it.

    You, on the other hand, are clearly a moron with an axe to grind.

    Buh-bye.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 7:32 pm

  86. Geoff, I’ve largely stayed out of these discussions. And I recognize your primarily point is about what is communicated. I somewhat agree on that point even though I honestly am amazingly skeptical about evolutionary psychology narratives. Especially about sexual selection in humans. That’s where most of worst examples of ad hoc untestable theories in EP promoted as fact are found.

    However it seems to me there are two issues you need to deal with and haven’t. The first is interestingly brought up by “pinkpatent” – that is what is modest for Mormons seems fairly extreme. When a narrow strap of cloth on ones shoulder is the difference between immodest vs. modest something odd is going on. (Note I’m not disagreeing with the counsel – just that my sense is that what constitutes modesty for Mormons just seems to be what was modest a few decades earlier in general culture.)

    If modesty is primarily about communication then I think you have to deal with the problem of matching up with society’s norms and what is actually being communicated. I think this is a potentially explanatory approach except that it just seems hard to argue what is being communicated by a half inch of cloth at the knees or a strap on a dress. Were we talking about people dressing like strippers you’d have a point. But what’s usually in debate is far, far from that extreme. And your approach seems unlikely to explain those cases.

    The second issue is that women are sexual creatures too. And according to most statistics I’ve seen much more sexually active than young Mormon men. Yet there appears to be not much counsel about men running around doing sports shirtless around women showing off their pects and six packs. Why is that? It seems that we condone such behavior while play basketball and other sports while considering a tight one piece swimsuit on a woman modest and a reasonably conservative navel baring bikini on a women immodest. There appears to be a pretty big double standard.

    The argument you might make here is to say men showing sexual signs doesn’t communicate sexual availability whereas a bare shoulder on a woman does. But I have a hard time seeing that. I think the femist critique that the rules are designed by men who notice their sexual response but don’t care about similar feelings in women is apt.

    To add, I think the idea that only men are the sexual aggressors in our current culture is just erroneous. The “more Mormon women are sexually active” is explained by some feminsts as due to cultural training of being obedient to men. I’m really, really skeptical of that. And I’ve known too many men who’ve faced pretty overt sexual aggression by women which would be considered near attempted rape were the sexes reversed. (An other double standard in our culture) Yet by focusing on modesty the way some do (I’m not convinced the manuals demand this in the least BTW) we make women the gatekeepers rather than the gatecrashers as they often are. I think it’s an other unfortunate example of putting women on a pedastal, thinking they are naturally spiritual and thinking men are horrid things more apt to sin at a moment’s notice. This ignores women’s sexuality but also frankly the equality of the sexes when it comes to screwing up and being bad apples.

    Comment by Clark — June 17, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

  87. Clark,

    Et tu Clark? Your comment makes it painfully clear that you only skimmed the post and comments.

    I did address the first issue you bring up. I addressed it both in the original post and in the in the comments. In the post I noted that what passes for modesty is culture-specific. (I gave examples of of the U.S. vs a tropical island nation vs. an Islamic nation.) I basically defined Mormon-style modesty as simply dressing more modestly than average for ones culture. So for American Mormons that manifests itself in certain traditions like one piece bathing sure for the girls and generally spurning spaghetti straps, etc.

    Your second issue (sort of like your first) indicates to me that you didn’t read much of this post or discussion because I have answered that one several times now. Please go back and read my comment #2. I think I give my response there as to why male modesty is less emphasized.

    To add, I think the idea that only men are the sexual aggressors in our current culture is just erroneous.

    Sigh. I never made any claims about “sexual aggressors”.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

  88. Pinkpatent,

    As a recovering anti-feminist, you’re making it really hard to let go of stereotypes… I’ve been able to sit through too many episodes of The View to let you ruin my progress.

    I’m sure you mean well but ditch the crass, self-satisfaction, and people will take your views more seriously.

    Comment by Riley — June 17, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

  89. I enjoy these types of discussions but too often people get heated and instead of being pulled left and right on the issue at hand I get embittered and take it out on small animals.

    I would seriously love to hear your thoughts on this as opposed to your deflective derision.

    Comment by Riley — June 17, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

  90. Everyone needs to remember that Geoff J is the bloggernacle’s version of “Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.”

    He kids, he kids….

    Comment by anon for this — June 17, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

  91. Well I must admit that some of the inane comments controversial posts like this generate make me want to cuss a blue streak a la Triumph the Insult Dog. (But I appreciate that you recognized the reference)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

  92. I realize I’m a bit late to this conversation, but Geoff, could you please share some examples of when “YM are asked to be modest for YW” as described in your OP?

    I’ve seen lots of places where YW are asked to dress modestly in order to keep YM virtuous enough to exercise their priesthood or stay on track as future missionaries or to keep from becoming like walking pronography for men/boys who see them, but I honestly cannot think of any times when I’ve heard YM counseled to dress modestly for the sake of the YW.

    I’ve heard YM taught to dress modestly/neatly because they hold the priesthood or because they are future missionaries, or because they shouldn’t be slobs, and I’ve heard lots of YM lessons about the importance of showing respect for women/girls, but I cannot think of one time, ever, when YM’s clothing choices (length of shorts, appropriateness of shirts/no shirts/muscle shirts) were based on the necessity of the YM to protect the delicate sensibilities and virtue of the YW (much less the raging teenage hormones of the YW).

    Comment by LRC — June 17, 2011 @ 11:16 pm

  93. LRC,

    It’s a good question. Kristine asked a very similar question in #1. See my answer in comment #2 and some of the follow ups for a discussion of this topic as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 17, 2011 @ 11:59 pm

  94. I would like to say that I agree with your basic premise, Geoff, that girls should be taught about the messages they might inadvertently send. I just don’t like the riding clause that indicates they are “gatekeepers” for the righteousness of another. It may seem like a fine line, but it makes a difference, especially in the minds of those who are already prone to blame themselves.

    I also want to admit that my experiences as an abuse recipient make otherwise subtle differences a great deal more obvious . . . and important.

    Comment by SilverRain — June 18, 2011 @ 5:44 am

  95. Geoff,
    “Your second sentence completely undermines your first sentence here. If masturbation were just as desirable to men as sex with an actual woman there would be precious few marriages in this world.”

    Marriage isn’t some sort of natural state, nor is it required for intercourse. Setting aside that there actually are precious few marriages in the world (if we like to think of marriage as a consensual relationship between two relatively equal partners), I think that you mistake my point. My point is that climax is the aim of the evolutionarily explained human (as it gets the sperm out there). A relationship isn’t necessary for climax. In fact, if the relationship isn’t valued in its own right, then, whether or not you are currently engaged in physical intercourse, you are still masturbating. All those commitment-phobic playas? If a woman is primarily understood as a means to achieve climax (if her reason d’etre is primarily to determine whether or not you get to achieve climax), then she isn’t a person. She is an obstacle to what you really care about. That, in particular, is why the “gatekeeper” idea isn’t that helpful.

    “But you are simply wrong on this one. Men are evolutionarily designed to want to have sex with women. This instinctual desire is what propagates our species. Masturbation is something men settle for in most cases.”

    Setting aside gay folk, I hope the above resolves this argument.

    ” I went out of my way in the post to say that women are the gatekeepers of consensual sex.”

    But this assumes no sexual will on the part of the husband? We know that husbands sometimes turn their wives down. We are not actually or always horndogus maximus. Men can be gatekeepers, too. And they should be.

    “I don’t see how acknowledging the existence of our non-verbal communications reduces people in any way.”

    Because it assumes that we have the ability to correctly read those signifiers in every specific case. Non-verbal communication is just another stereotype; it works great in the abstract, but in specific cases it is much more unreliable. If we say, “Because she dresses like x, she must want a sexual partner,” we are as likely to be engaging in personal wish fulfillment as we are to be engaging in accurate assessment of her intent.

    “WWZD”
    Just don’t forget that where there is a gatekeeper, there must also be a keymaster.

    Comment by John C. — June 18, 2011 @ 6:59 am

  96. Geoff, the reason I asked is because I found none of your answers non-responsive to this question:

    Where are the lessons teaching LDS Young Men to dress modestly for Young Women?

    You’ve said that YW are asked to dress for YM (which is abundantly clear) and you’ve said the reverse is also true. But I’ve yet to see any evidence of YM being asked to dress for anyone other than themselves.

    So, what I see is YM are dressing for YM and the YW are dressing for YM. If there’s evidence of counseling YM to dress for YW, I am interested in seeing it.

    Comment by LRC — June 18, 2011 @ 7:37 am

  97. make that, I found all of your answers non-responsive to the question of LDS YM being asked to dress modestly for the sake of LDS YW.

    Comment by LRC — June 18, 2011 @ 7:39 am

  98. Geoff, the bit about sexual aggressors and the like wasn’t about your post but about some of the comments. However sexual aggressors is relevant if the issue of modesty is communication. That is the question of who is being communicated with as well as how we communicate. To put it simply the men who want modesty will react differently from the men who want a quick roll in the hay. (OK, a bit oblique, but you get the idea)

    This is in reference to

    So the reason for YW to dress and behave modestly is indeed to communicate with the YM they encounter daily. Not just the Mormon young men but all of the men they encounter. The same is true for the YM dressing and behaving modestly — for them to communicate that they are not in the market for a sexual partner.

    Regarding the culture specific points I don’t think you really did address my critique. (I just reread your post to be sure) My point is that there isn’t just a single culture we live in. You have for lack of a better term (even though I hate this phrase) the “Molly Mormons and Peter Priesthoods” who are part of their Mormon culture. You have the more “edgy” Mormons who might watch R-rated movies and wear bikinis (i.e. still different from the world but not quite as straight laced as some). You have Mormons who are basically living a secular lifestyle outside of Church. Then you have non-Mormons with a whole series of cultures there. (i.e. all the different subgroups in High School which gets turned into a myriad more groups after you graduate)

    The point being is that if the message is culture-dependent and we swim among literally dozens of cultures then things become so ridiculously complex quick that focusing on message becomes problematic. Especially if what we’re talking about, as I noted, isn’t club-wear or quasi-stripper clothing (for men or women) but rather the difference between a strap or no strap on ones shoulder or the difference between a skirt below the knees or half an inch above.

    To the final point again, as I said I reread your post and then I reread your comments. I guess I don’t see it. I recognize that you are using clothing as more a marker of what someone wants in a date. But this is problematic I think in that not everyone uses the markers in that fashion. The most aggressive women I’ve encountered dressed modestly and frankly most of the women who didn’t dress modestly were the female equivalent of players and who wanted you to really work for them to even give them the time of day.

    My point is that the evolutionary psychology story you are telling just isn’t true. It is true we use markers, however the meaningfulness of markers is lost in the fact we find ourselves lost in a multitude of competing cultures and the fact not everyone knows the rules of marking. (In effect you are after all saying that the YM/YW rules are an attempt to educate the youth in the rules of sexual marking which presupposes that they are kind of incompetent at it on their own. But if the youth are incompetent in these message making then it kind of undermines the whole argument since the rest of their peers will be incompetent in both communicating such markers and interpreting such markers)

    Comment by Clark — June 18, 2011 @ 8:15 am

  99. To add, as I said I actually agree with your basic stance. I think we do communicate a lot with our dress. However I just think the messages and interpretations are much more complex than you suggest. But I do think it really behooves parents to explain how clothes communicate. And certainly there are those who think communication is purely a matter of interpretation by one side. Which is just silly. (Why on earth some think non-verbal communication would be so radically different from verbal communication escapes me)

    Comment by Clark — June 18, 2011 @ 8:19 am

  100. Re 96, 97: I felt the same way. I still don’t think those questions have been addressed.

    Comment by BrianJ — June 18, 2011 @ 9:31 am

  101. SilverRain (#94): I just don’t like the riding clause that indicates they are “gatekeepers” for the righteousness of another.

    Good. That means you agree with me as I have clearly stated over and over and over in this thread.

    (I am starting to realize that choosing my headline as a play on Julie’s headline was a bad idea. People jump to conclusions about it that they just can’t let go of…)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 10:16 am

  102. John C: If a woman is primarily understood as a means to achieve climax

    The evolutionary psychology claims I have read and which make sense to me never claim that men only want to have sex with women exclusively for climax. As you point out, women are unnecessary if climax is the only goal. Rather, the idea is that human males are also evolutionarily predisposed to procreate and to see to it that their children survive to maturity. (This in in addition to the instinct to mate with most any willing female which as I mentioned earlier helps explain the long history of polygyny in human history). You are right that marriage per se is not required for that but it has become the fairly universal convention humans use when they bond, mate, and join together to raise children to maturity.

    So with that in mind, women are indeed gatekeepers of sex and certainly gatekeepers the process of procreating and raising children to maturity. A man who is looking to fulfill his instinctual desires to have offspring survive him after death needs to convince a woman to join him in that effort.

    Men can be gatekeepers, too. And they should be.

    Obviously. That is why I said way back in #2:

    So it is perfectly understandable given our evolutionary design that Mormon boys are taught not to seek girls who are giving the green light and to turn down the girls who do. Girls are taught not to give the green light.


    If we say, “Because she dresses like x, she must want a sexual partner,”

    Sadly, this is exactly how the male mind instinctually thinks. There are interesting studies/theories that discuss the over-inference issue that men almost universally have. Whether or not we think men’s brains should work that way, it is foolishness to pretend they don’t work that way on the ground.

    WWZD = A Ghostbusters reference… Hehe. Thanks. I thought the “gatekeeper” word would elicit “keymaster” comments.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 10:43 am

  103. LRC (#96) — The young men are taught to dress modestly too. Standard stuff like nothing too revealing or tight etc. Check out the “For The Strength of Youth” pamphlet if you are interested in that. (Although the current specific modesty teachings are not really on topic for this post — we are talking about “why’s” not “what’s”.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 10:53 am

  104. Geoff,
    What is the evidence that men are evolutionarily predisposed to see to it that their children make it to maturity? I’m really, really curious about that (because it goes against other evolutionary psychology theories, for instance).

    For that matter, evolutionarily speaking, what is the motivator for sex exclusive of climax?

    “A man who is looking to fulfill his instinctual desires to have offspring survive him after death needs to convince a woman to join him in that effort.”

    In the “enlightened” West. In most places in the world, not so much.

    “this is exactly how the male mind instinctually thinks.”

    So now I’m confused. Are you arguing that we should embrace this behavior or use the Gospel (or some such) to mitigate against it? Because, as you’ve stated above, what Young Women do is irrelevant (or, at least, non-determinant) to what the Young Man does in this case.

    Comment by John C. — June 18, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  105. Well John C (#104),

    The human species wouldn’t survive if they all died as children and as you know human children take many years to reach maturity. So it stands to reason that humans lacking a predisposition to see their children survive to maturity would disappear from the earth pretty quickly right? By contrast the ones with a predisposition to protect and provide for children would multiply.

    For that matter, evolutionarily speaking, what is the motivator for sex exclusive of climax?

    What motivates swallows to migrate to Capistrano? Instinct I guess. Evolutionarily driven instincts that help the species survive.

    In the “enlightened” West. In most places in the world, not so much.

    Well there is truth to this. In oppressive cultures with arranged marriages and whatnot there is very little choice in sexual partners for the girls. But Mormonism doesn’t exist in those places so that is sort of not related to what we teach our people about modesty and why.

    Are you arguing that we should embrace this behavior or use the Gospel (or some such) to mitigate against it?

    I am arguing that we teach our men to bridle their natural passions (aka the natural man) and we teach our women how to be best protected against the many men in the world who do a poor job of bridling their natural/animalistic passions. Not a very shocking position — I know.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 11:20 am

  106. Riley, I’ve never seen an episode of The View. Its on during the day while I’m at work.

    As for the rest of your comment…..whatever. How interesting that you call my comment crass but have nothing to say to the pompous, rude, diatribe spewed by others.

    Y’all can woot woot all you want on how the modesty issue is being delivered to our young people. I am more concerned with how its being received. A year ago my daughter got a text message from our bishop’s daughter that was meant for someone else. It was about my daughter, discussing how inappropiate the outfit she wore to school had been. A few seconds later she received another text from the same girl saying she was sorry, and that the text had been meant for someone else. No kidding?

    What was this inappropriate outfit? A tank top, not a spaghetti strap top, but a simple tank top with a billowy sleeveless vest and a pair of capri pants. Pretty mild stuff, folks.

    The bishop’s daughter didn’t come up with these ideas of modesty on her own. They were taught to her.

    I like these threads. They are great reminder of why I pulled my family out of the church. There is much beauty in the mormon faith, but not enough to outweigh the ugly.

    Comment by pinkpatent — June 18, 2011 @ 11:58 am

  107. Geoff,

    I understand that this is your blog and your domain and you’re entitled to your opinions.

    What I don’t understand is why you have the comments open.

    It seems like you’re not really interested in having a conversation with anyone, just hearing your great ideas and comments as they click across the keyboard along with a little chuckle as realize how pithy you are.

    I don’t want to get into it with you. I know how you feel on this subject and there’s just no point to it.

    I guess I’m just surprised that someone as bright as yourself can be so arrogant and dismissive towards your peers that present you with thoughtful arguments.

    What I’m reading in this thread(and I’ve tried not to hear it this way because there’s some elements of your OP that I identify/agree with)
    ‘yah, yah, yah… I’m not listening to you because you’re on the other team (Team Feminist)and you’re not part of the already approved list of commenters in my head. [read; my team.

    If that’s how you’re going to react to intelligent people, I see no point in allowing discussion.

    Comment by mfranti — June 18, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  108. Clark (#98): In the “enlightened” West. In most places in the world, not so much.

    Yes, exactly. The clothing communicates a lot of things. In some case one of the messages is “I am Mormon and I am part of the Mormon tribe”. See my last post on the value of sending that message.

    Of course there are going to be outliers and exceptions to normal behavior patterns. So I don’t disagree with that point of yours.

    Also, I don’t think youth are incompetent at the game of attracting sexual partners. Rather I think the rules suggested by the church recognize that youth can be overconfident and reckless when playing such games. The rules are designed to keep kids as far from the edge of the proverbial cliff as they can.

    Regarding your comment #99 — I agree.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

  109. mfranti (#107),

    You are right that I have a preferred tone and style of debating. And you are right that I am impatient with people who are unwilling or unable to use my preferred style of debating here at my blog. But I think you will see by reading the comments that I am very engaged with people who are addressing the actual subjects at hand.

    I do indeed dismiss people who leave what I deem to be nothing more than drive-by attempts at snarks. I can’t deny that I don’t suffer such fools gladly.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

  110. Geoff,
    I suppose I’m questioning the notion that men are evolutionarily determined to look after children because traditionally women have been the primary caregivers. Men are, genetically speaking, better served by impregnating as many women as possible so that the odds that a particular baby will survive increase. That doesn’t (necessarily) imply expending a lot of effort getting a given child to sexual maturity. Many evolutionary psychologists use this notion to justify the near-universal human double standards regarding child care and homemaking. This is why I was a bit surprised for you to make that argument. If nothing else, your suppositions are currently in hot dispute.

    “Evolutionarily driven instincts that help the species survive.”

    But we aren’t talking about all the things that contribute to a species propagation in this discussion. We’re talking about what specifically motivates animals (and us) to “do it.” I’m positing that climax (or the animal equivalent) works (it is not a primarily psychological experience; it involves involuntary movements; it is a powerful motivator, sometimes leading us to work against our own best interest in its pursuit). You are saying that you do not think that’s likely, but you’re also not positing an alternative. So, I’m winning :)

    “Mormonism doesn’t exist in those places”

    Those places are where Mormonism is growing (thinking of the deeply chauvinistic Latin American cultures or of African and Asian patriarchal). We need to consider how our rhetoric (in the relatively “enlightened” West) will play in those places.

    “we teach our women how to be best protected against the many men in the world who do a poor job of bridling their natural/animalistic passions. ”
    Self-defense and gun safety courses?

    Comment by John C. — June 18, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  111. Pinkpatent (#106),

    I hope you are happy in your new life out of Mormonism. I know leaving the church does work for a certain percentage of people. Mormonism obviously isn’t for everyone.

    But of course this is sort of off topic. I’m trying hard to keep this post on the specific topic at hand.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  112. John C (#110),

    I never said anything about men having “primary caregiver” instincts. Only that human men have an evolutionary incentive to ensure that they create offspring and see to it that those offspring survive to maturity. That seems to manifest itself in a lot more protecting and providing than being primary caregivers in our species.

    As for incentives for sex you are claiming it is exclusively for climax and I am claiming that climax is only one of the evolutionarily driven reasons for our species seeking sex. Since my answer makes a lot more sense than yours I guess that means I’m winning right? (grin)

    As for the church in places like Latin America and Africa certainly regional specifics about modesty would apply. I said as much in the original post. The issue is that clothing choices communicate things (see Clark’s #99) about sexual plans so Mormons will continue to teach dress standards that help people live the church’s law of chastity.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

  113. “Only that human men have an evolutionary incentive to ensure that they create off spring and see to it that those offspring survive to maturity.”

    These are two different things and there are plenty of animals (including, arguably, humans) who do one and not the other.

    In any case, I think that you are misusing evolution here. We may have social, economic, or cultural reasons to wish to raise our own children. But spending a lot of time with one child (or group of children), when you could be out making more children and letting the moms take care of them, is a waste evolutionarily. Now perhaps you are arguing that we are evolutionarily inclined to lifelong monogamous relationships (in spite of a wealth of evidence to the contrary) because that has resulted in a society that is more stable and, therefore, everyone is likely to produce grandchildren or something. But there are so many leaps in getting from there to here that causation (while possibly present) isn’t proven now and I rather doubt it could be.

    Remember that, in an evolutionary sense, insects are far more successful than humans.

    “climax is only one of the evolutionarily driven reasons for our species seeking sex.”

    In addition to? (notice how I keep winning) :)

    “places like Latin America and Africa certainly regional specifics about modesty would apply. I said as much in the original post.”

    I didn’t bring them up because of clothing choices, I brought them up because they are places where women are frequently treated like chattel (more frequently than in the West, I think). A discourse that is primarily concerned with the ways in which women create sexual desire in men (by their simply being) is one that leads cultures to do things like keep all the women at home for their own protection. Note: I am not saying that you are advocating that; I am saying that the rhetoric you are using can be co-opted for those purposes so easily that we should reconsider the usefulness of the rhetoric (no matter how well intentioned we may be).

    Comment by John C. — June 18, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  114. Geoff says

    (Although the current specific modesty teachings are not really on topic for this post — we are talking about “why’s” not “what’s”.)

    Yes. exactly. the “why’s” – why are YM supposed to be modest? why are the YW supposed to be modest?

    I know they are all instructed to dress modestly.

    You have proposed that the reason – they why – is “for the young women” or “for the young men”.

    I have asked, where are the examples of young men being taught to dress modestly for the young women.

    Every time I’ve seen instructions given to young men on how they should dress, it’s because of a reason having to do directly with the young men themselves: they are priesthood holders; they shouldn’t be slobs; they’re going to be missionaries.

    I’ve never heard a group of young men instructed to dress modestly because of the effect their immodesty has on young women.

    All – or nearly all – of the examples we’ve read about the necessity (the why) for young women’s modesty are couched in terms of what effect the young women’s immodesty has on the young men/older men: Either they’re sending a message of temptation/availability; or they’re trying to protect themselves from unwanted sexual advances; or they’re avoiding tempting young men to think about pronography.

    Geoff, you are the one who says the YM’s “why” is the same as the YW’s “why” and that those teachings are used within the LDS culture.

    So, I ask, what do we teach the YM about “Why are YM supposed to be modest?”

    Comment by LRC — June 18, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

  115. John C (#113): there are plenty of animals who do one and not the other

    Sure, but humans aren’t one of those animals. That is because it takes between 1 and 2 decades for a human to reach maturity. So for the human species to propagate children must be protected after conception for many, many years. Thus the universal and ancient practice of men in our species doing just that — fathering children, and then protecting and providing for them to maturity.

    when you could be out making more children and letting the moms take care of them, is a waste evolutionarily

    False. On the proverbial savannah abandoning young mothers with babies would lead to a very short life for those two. (You know the old “dingos ate my baby” line).

    In addition to? (notice how I keep winning) :)

    Hehe. #NotWinning. See above.

    Last, I agree that the Church’s specifics about modest dress should be adjusted depending on the culture/country the unit is located in.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

  116. LRC (#114): why are YM supposed to be modest? why are the YW supposed to be modest?

    Maybe I was looking beyond the mark on your question. The answer to this one is simple: Male and female Mormons are asked to dress modestly because dressing modestly is conducive to keeping God’s law of chastity.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

  117. “the universal and ancient practice of men in our species doing just that — fathering children, and then protecting and providing for them to maturity.”

    Geoff,
    This is neither universal nor is it particularly ancient. You’re just wrong on both counts. And you are still saying that there is an evolutionary advantage without saying what it is or why it is an advantage.

    “On the proverbial savannah abandoning young mothers with babies would lead to a very short life for those two.”

    There is a lot of assumption behind this assumption. Even in the very unlikely event that this is how things worked, we’ve got no reason to assume that a woman would be unable to take care of herself. It might be harder, but it would be doable. Job specialization makes things easier, but I doubt it is genetically or evolutionarily determined. That’s culture, not biology.

    Comment by John C. — June 18, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  118. John,

    First let me clarify that by universal I meant “not cultural-specific”.

    But if you claim that human men fathering children, and then protecting and providing for them to maturity is not an ancient practice that happened across all cultures then we simply disagree on that.

    The evolutionary advantage of such a practice is simple. The genes of men who fail to see to it their offspring live to maturity die with those men. Only the genes of men whose children survive are passed on to future generations. It’s rudimentary natural selection stuff.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  119. Geoff your bridled vs unbridled analogy isn’t reasonable we would expect to find unbridled men who act out sexually in prison and indeed we do but only a few non-Mormon men are in prison so the rest must be partially bridled Mormon men according to you are generally even more bridled the implication is bridled is a desirable gospel trait so if this is true by extension God should be the most bridled but He isn’t He is completely unbridled by reason of autonomy and we are encouraged to become perfect as He is. I think the feminist position is similar to encourage men toward enlightenment and away from the mental blindness of instinct bridled by the unenlightened position of rote obedience to rote rules.

    Comment by Howard — June 18, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

  120. Howard — Please try submitting that last comment again. With punctuation.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

  121. Geoff your bridled vs unbridled analogy isn’t reasonable. We would expect to find unbridled men who act out sexually in prison and indeed we do but only a few non-Mormon men are in prison so the rest must be partially bridled. Mormon men according to you are generally even more bridled. The implication is bridled is a desirable gospel trait so if this is true by extension God should be the most bridled but He isn’t He is completely unbridled by reason of autonomy. We are encouraged to become perfect as He is. I think the feminist position is similar to encourage men toward enlightenment and away from the mental blindness of instinct bridled by the unenlightened position of rote obedience to rote rules.

    Comment by Howard — June 18, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

  122. “human men fathering children, and then protecting and providing for them to maturity is not an ancient practice that happened across all cultures then we simply disagree on that.”

    It’s not just a matter of disagreement, its a matter of faith, as there is very little evidence to support either of our assertions. Human beings have created many different societies where the factors of who takes care of the kids, the ratios of men to women, and the considered value of men or women vary widely. In particular, the notion that men universally expend energy to see that their children make it to maturity strikes me as a moralistic re-reading of history, not one that is fundamentally based in science or some other objective thing. So yeah, I think we disagree.

    It’s also rudimentary natural science (and math) that spreading one’s seed as widely as possible, with as many different women as possible, is better than committing your genetic hopes with one women. This is particularly the case with humans, where women stand a good chance of taking care of the child without male presence (as has essentially been the case for years).

    Comment by John C. — June 18, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

  123. Hmmm, even after you added punctuation I still have no idea what you are talking about Howard. “Bridled” is a synonym for “self-discipline”. I assume you aren’t opposed to self discipline right?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  124. You are also continuing to confuse psychological and evolutionary causes. While evolution may tell me to do all I can to make sure that all my offspring survive, psychology and culture tell me that certain children (those of my main wife) have more value than other children (those of my slave girl). So, I care what happens to one group of children and not the other. Attributing our psychological and cultural decisions to evolution is fraught with pseudo-scientific peril and best left alone. This is, of course, my primary objection to this whole approach.

    Comment by John C. — June 18, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  125. John,

    Men protecting and providing for children can imply simply making sure they remain fed and sheltered and protected from enemies. This could happen in a monogamous situation or in a situation where there are many wives and concubines. When I see you use terms like “take care of the kids” I get the feeling you are overlaying more onto what I am claiming that I intend.

    But if we just disagree that is fine too.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

  126. Geoff, it’s very clear that women are asked to dress modestly for reasons of preserving/engendering chastity.

    It’s not clear that men are asked to dress modestly for the same reasons.

    I think that how we dress definitely sends a message to others and that those messages are important.

    But I don’t think you’ve shown us that “young men (YM) are asked to be modest for the young women (YW) and the YW are asked to be modest for the YM.”

    What I see is:

    YM being asked to dress modestly because they have responsibilities as priesthood holders.

    and

    YW being asked to dress modestly because they have responsibilities to influence priesthood holders to be worthy.

    Do you see how these two statements are different?

    They are both being asked to dress modestly because of the boys’ needs/wants/desires/proclivities – whether those tendencies are righteous or wicked.

    I think it’s more accurate to say that we tell our YM to act modestly (to protect/defend/do their duty; to be subjects of sentences doing something) and YW to dress modestly (to be seen, to be viewed as virtuous, to avoid becoming catalysts for boys’ non-virtuous thoughts, to be objects of boys’/mens’ actions – to be acted/not acted upon).

    Comment by LRC — June 18, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  127. John: You are also continuing to confuse psychological and evolutionary causes

    Ha! You do remember that the theories I am fond of do come from a field of study that calls itself “evolutionary psychology” right?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

  128. “the theories I am fond of do come from a field of study that calls itself “evolutionary psychology” right?”

    Right, but the way it is usually applied does a disservice to both.

    Comment by John C. — June 18, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  129. Geoff it doesn’t surprise me that you have no idea what I am talking about. Self-discipline is desirable as an intermediate step to where we are going it refers to the training that one gives oneself to accomplish a certain task. Enlightened autonomy would be something like be self governed by way of knowledge and empathy. They are different the second transcends rote obedience and includes the potential to transcend will power.

    Comment by Howard — June 18, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  130. I agree with that basic idea in #129 Howard. I’m not sure what it has to do with the specific topic at hand though.

    PS — I glad you aren’t surprised that I have trouble discerning what you are talking about half the time. I assume that means you recognize your writing style needs some cleaning/tightening up.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

  131. By remaining ignorant we must rely on what you call bridling which typically operates on obedience or will power. But they are difficult and sometimes faulty so holding YW responsible for YM helps both keep the law of chastity but at the expense of the YW. Instead YM should be encouraged beyond simply being self bridled toward the more God like traits of enlightenment and autonomy freeing YW from the unjust burden of guilt. Accomplishing this requires an empathetic understanding of the female view point allowing consciousness raising on the part of the male.

    Comment by Howard — June 18, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  132. Geoff don’t blame my writing style for your impermeability of thought it’s obvious to many that you don’t get it so I’m hoping to help you get it.

    Comment by Howard — June 18, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

  133. Also, I don’t think youth are incompetent at the game of attracting sexual partners.

    I suspect this is the key disagreement. I think the majority are. You see the problem as primarily one of overconfidence (I can dress like this without being affected) whereas to me the problem is cluelessness on the part of a lot of people. (Both men and women) And my critique about YM is primarily that we don’t afford them the education about how they sexually communicate to women that we do to girls.

    Your point about there being a “Mormon tribe” and dress communicating adherence is a good one. Much like gangs dress certain ways to show membership. I fully agree there although I think one can go overboard here (and people often do)

    Comment by Clark — June 18, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

  134. Howard I only blame your writing style for being what it is: Garbled and meandering.

    I actually don’t have any problem with your ideas that more enlightenment is what we are really after. That is the basic message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  135. Great! They must not have been that garbled then.

    Comment by Howard — June 18, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  136. Hehe Howard. Word.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

  137. Geoff, can you give an evolutionary explanation for why male offspring provision, especially into the age of reproductive maturity, is not only not common in the mammal world (despite the fact that adult provision is necessary for the survival of virtually all mammal offspring) but virtually non existent? For why male chimps don’t provision their offspring? If your invocation of evolutionary logic were really evidence of a human universal practice of provisioning offspring into maturity, out would equally apply to all sexually reproducing life forms. The thing that evolutionary psychologists don’t seem to get is that just because some behavior seems to our modern economic intuition to be in an organism’s genetic interest, that doesn’t mean that there has ever actually been an evolutionary mechanism in place to select for the behavior in question.

    Hint: while in nature maternity is never in question, paternity always is.

    Male provision of children into maturity is not a human biological imperative, and is far, far from being a human cross cultural or historical universal.

    Comment by Brad — June 18, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

  138. Valid question Brad. I’ll do some looking around at the writings of some evolutionary psychologists and see if they have any responses to that critique.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  139. Well there are some birds that sneak their young into the nests of other birds so they pay the costs of raising them. So in the animal kingdom maternity really is sometimes in question.

    Comment by Clark — June 18, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  140. LRC (126) I’m confused here when you say YM are only taught modesty because they “have responsibilities as priesthood holders.” Are you saying they aren’t taught why they have those responsibilities? I just glanced through the manuals and I just don’t see this. Indeed in the For the Strength of Young booklet all YM & YW are given we find the following:

    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.

    Never lower your dress standards for any occasion. Doing so sends the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval and that modesty is important only when it is convenient.

    This seems to emphasize the part of Geoff’s point I agree with. That dress communicates and we need to be aware of that. Further it’s communicated to both sexes on those terms. My only complaint, I’d note, is that men tend to get more of a pass in practice than women which I think is more a reflection of how our American culture views male sexuality vs. female sexuality. (I tend not to see this in the manuals, I should note)

    The book goes on:

    Immodest clothing includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire. Young women should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low-cut in the front or the back or revealing in any other manner. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. All should avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle. Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately casual in dress, grooming, and manners. Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”

    I think this gets at the “tribal” notion Geoff brought up rather than the sexual notion. That is modesty isn’t just about sex and not even primarily about sex. It is extremes in dress.

    Comment by Clark — June 18, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

  141. It is extremes in dress, and there’s definitely a group cohesion, tribal component to it. But for the girls there’s also an element that alienates them from their own bodies, encourages them to see their bodies as inherently pornographic, by making them partly responsible for the (bad) sexual desires of boys and men. It really, really, really is possible to encourage girls to be modest in every sense without teaching them that short shorts and tank tops will turn them into “living pornography,” to teach them respect for their bodies and modest dress in a way that diminishes their sense of themselves as sexual objects of an aggressively lustful male gaze rather than reinforcing that sense.

    Comment by Brad — June 18, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  142. Brad: teach them respect for their bodies and modest dress in a way that diminishes their sense of themselves as sexual objects of an aggressively lustful male gaze rather than reinforcing that sense

    As you probably read, I have a 12 year old and a 14 year old daughter. I teach them what they already know as a result of going to middle school: Boys are often shockingly horny and would love to find a girl who will agree to have sex with them.

    In what ways do you think my girls are being taught they are “sexual objects” at church or home? Are you saying that recognizing the obvious fact that a lot of horny boys would love to at least grope girls like them somehow damages my daughters? Please elaborate.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

  143. Brad I think some might teach it that way. But I just reread the manuals to check and it just isn’t taught that way in the manuals. I think a lot of people had a bad teacher and have projected that onto the Church as a whole. Some people might indeed teach women are walking pornography but I see the manuals as being more careful. (Although admittedly I don’t teach YW)

    I personally have a hard time seeing a missing strap that is less than a 1/4″ wide as indicating “walking pornography.” And I don’t think that was Geoff’s point either. Personally I think a person can wear clothing that covers them appropriate as outlined by some yet still be amazing sexual and inappropriate. However I think the manuals make clear it’s extreme styles. Defining what that is would be impossible of course. It’s more teaching correct principles and hoping people can figure the rest out themselves.

    I think everyone recognizes that “club wear” is rather inappropriate. It’s simply not true (despite what Geoff suggests) that this is simply about attracting sex. Many women do this to tease men in order to exercise power over them. (You can look but you can never have me, but I want you to look) Once again the manuals cover this in their sense of modesty as well. Modesty isn’t just about baring flesh but it is trying to draw attention to yourself inappropriately through your dress. That can be via sexualize dress but needn’t be. I think the “Nephite disease” of making themselves better than others by way of their dress is also immodest. And that does go on in some wards.

    Comment by Clark — June 18, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

  144. Clark: It’s simply not true (despite what Geoff suggests) that this is simply about attracting sex. Many women do this to tease men in order to exercise power over them.

    You’ll be pleased to learn that I completely agree with this. I used from the evolutionary psychology to describe the theories about the instinctual subconscious reasons behind these behaviors.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

  145. Geoff wrote: In what ways do you think my girls are being taught they are “sexual objects” I don’t know your girls but both immodest extremes and modest extremes in dress and modesty sexually objectify females they are simply opposite sides of the same coin. This was the main point of Amelia’s excellent post that you read. Making YW responsible for YM shifts responsibility in an unhealthy way with sexual undertones in a sexual arena implying to some degree that since YM see them as sex objects they must cover up subtly implying they must actually be sex objects. Teaching these subjects to YW by using guilt and or shame or the implication there of teaches susceptible YW to shut down their quite normal sexual thoughts and responses inhibiting sexual response which plays out later in marriage as witnessed by various blog commenters claiming to have lived through it. FWIW as you probably know hyperbole used to teach the youth often eventually undermines the creditability of the message so the case for modesty should be made accurately and nonjudgementally.

    Comment by Howard — June 18, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

  146. What I find interesting is that I have seen half a dozen posts lamenting the effect that teaching modesty has on young women in the church–that it objectifies them and slots them into certain roles and so on. And yet I have never seen a post speculating on what effect the teaching of modesty has on the young men. Doesn’t it equally send the message that boys are mere horndogs who cannot control themselves and have dirty minds and only want sex? Does it not diminish and objectify them just as much? And doesn’t the fact that all the “don’t watch pornography” talks are directed at the YM and not the YW do the same thing?

    I actually don’t think either effect is real myself. They make sense hypothetically, but in reality, most young people are smart enough to acknowledge their biological differences without defining themselves by them. Healthy self-awareness and grasp of nuance goes a long way to a healthy and happy life.

    Brad makes some good and intelligent points, but at the end of the day, all EP is speculative. We really do not know and will never know the extent to which sex was or was not consensual tens of thousands of years ago. Very primitive societies were surprisingly egalitarian, and who knows how sex worked in ancient tribes? Brad doesn’t and I don’t.

    And Geoff, I quite like your “debating” style. Knee-jerk responses to anything even perceived as anti-feminist is quite tiresome. As is a pervasive lack of reading comprehension skills. No need to pretend otherwise.

    Comment by Kate McKay — June 18, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

  147. Thanks Kate.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

  148. Knee-jerk responses to anything even perceived as anti-feminist is quite tiresome.

    Well, that is true. And so at the risk of being tiresome, I’m going to take issue with some of the points you make, Kate.

    1. I actually don’t think either effect is real myself.
    Surely you meant to qualify that? While I agree that it isn’t real 100% across the board, it is so obviously real in many cases that you cannot possibly mean this, without lots of caveats. If you need real life examples, please see the second paragraph of my comment # 28.

    2. …all EP is speculative.
    A very good point. You don’t know, Brad doesn’t know (but he never claimed to anyway, as long as we are commenting on the pervasive lack of reading comprehension skills), and, most importantly, Geoff doesn’t know either. Since he built his post around around something you yourself claim is only speculative, it is a bit surprising that you don’t include him in your list of people who are just making guesses, however well-intended those guesses may be.

    3. boys are mere horndogs who cannot control themselves and have dirty minds and only want sex
    I thought this was pretty much the premise of Geoff’s post. Since you disagree with this premise, it leaves me wondering what there is about the post you like, aside from the style.

    It’s funny how times change. The set of missionary discussions I used explicitly stated (in the lesson on chastity) that men are so motivated by sex that it is the only thing in the world powerful enough to induce them to take on the responsibility of a family. I’m glad we’ve changed that now.

    That is an interesting comment about being smart enough to acknowledge biological differences without defining ourselves by them. Given that we now apparently think that gender is the single most important characteristic of our eternal beings, I’m wondering what to make of it.

    Comment by Mark Brown — June 19, 2011 @ 7:21 am

  149. Mark-
    Yes, I should have added caveats. You make good points in your #28. I actually remember the brouhaha about single strap backpacks when I was at BYU and wrote a letter to the paper about how utterly moronic it was. I just generally feel that brain dead people will be brain dead about a variety of issues. There are a variety of doctrines and teachings that I have seen people twist into all manner of bizarre beliefs. So I don’t think the teaching of modesty is the problem itself.

    (but he never claimed to anyway, as long as we are commenting on the pervasive lack of reading comprehension skills)

    Really? To quote Brad:

    In our evolution as a species, what we would now call consensual intercourse was, for females, an extremely rare exception. Any theory of human sexuality that doesn’t acknowledge that is just neoclassical economics masquerading as evolutionary biology. Sex was never, never a free, rational, mutual transaction of mutual benefit during the hundreds of thousands of generations during which the distinctive features of homo sapien sociosexual and reproductive behavior complexes evolved.

    I actually see no caveats or acknowledgment of speculation in any of Brad’s comments. “Never, never” is pretty definitive.

    I thought this was pretty much the premise of Geoff’s post.

    The premise of Geoff’s post was that teaching modesty teaches men that they’re nothing more than horndogs? Well I didn’t read it that way. I thought it simply said that how we dress sends messages to each other, so we should dress to tell each other that we’re not interested in sex right now.

    Comment by Kate McKay — June 19, 2011 @ 8:26 am

  150. Kate wrote: There are a variety of doctrines and teachings that I have seen people twist into all manner of bizarre beliefs. So I don’t think the teaching of modesty is the problem itself. How is your conclusion supported by your observation in the first sentence? Please support your conclusion.

    Comment by Howard — June 19, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  151. Actually, Kate, the underlying premise of Geoff’s post is that men ARE nothing but horndogs–so women need to protect themselves from men, as well as protect men from themselves.

    Michael Kimmel: “Feminism expects a man to be ethical, emotionally present, and accountable to his values in his actions with women — as well as with other men. Feminism loves men enough to expect them to act more honorably and actually believes them capable of doing so.”

    Comment by missy. — June 19, 2011 @ 10:19 am

  152. Where to start? Okay, your first premise: Um, you know there was no Adam or Eve. Right? It’s a mythological story …

    Comment by Cognitive Dissenter — June 19, 2011 @ 11:38 am

  153. Kate (#149): I thought it simply said that how we dress sends messages to each other, so we should dress to tell each other that we’re not interested in sex right now.

    Bingo. A+ to Kate on her reading comprehension skills.

    missy. (#150): Actually, Kate, the underlying premise of Geoff’s post is that men ARE nothing but horndogs–so women need to protect themselves from men, as well as protect men from themselves.

    Not quite. I have never implied that human males are nothing but horndogs. Human men are quite obviously much more than just that. But I do agree that among other things human males do tend to be relative horndogs instinctually. This is partially why Mormon scriptures warn that the unsavory tendencies natural man must be put off using our agency so we can keep the commandments of God.

    I should note that the scriptural call to use our agency to put off our instinctual unrighteous tendencies and follow Christ is also in harmony with your quote from Kimmel.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

  154. Cognitive Dissenter (#152),

    The funniest part about your comment is you seem to think you are revealing something new and important. Thanks for the input Sherlock. (I noticed some doofs at some angry exmo sites linked to this post with the same brainless interpretation of what we are discussing here.)

    Can’t you see that it is completely moot whether the Garden of Eden narrative is literal or figurative? As it turns out, I personally believe the Eden narrative is an allegory. (Notice I referred to “scriptural stories” rather than historical facts in the original post.)

    So I give you an F in reading comprehension. Try again next semester.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  155. Okay. Got. It.

    “Actually [you mean allegorically, right?] our scriptural [allegorical] stories answer this one pretty clearly [allegorically] in the [allegorical] Adam and Eve story. Before the [allegorical] Fall and before [allegorical] sexual reproduction began Adam and Eve reportedly [allegorically] roamed freely in The [allegorical] Garden as naked as jaybirds [allegorically]. There is no indication that God minded this one bit [well, as long as we're talking about an allegorical nakedness]. It is only after the couple was [allegorically] cast from the [allegorical] Garden and sexual reproduction became part of their [allegorical] world that modesty suddenly [and allegorically] started to matter.”

    Thanks for clearing that up. It really does explain a lot, Teacher. And thanks for your patience. It’s not easy being the dumbest student in the class. F*** those Fs!!! Dagnabit I feel like I’m back in passive aggressive RS all over again. That’s why I had to leave Mormonism. It’s not that you people aren’t the most Christlike souls on the planet; it’s that I was too stupid to wrap my head around allegory vs. literal. Thanks for the reminder, Jesus.

    Comment by Cognitive Dissenter — June 19, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  156. Cog: That’s why I had to leave Mormonism.

    What?! You’re an angry exmo with an axe to grind?? I never would have guessed.

    Please tell me you are ironically trying to look like a cliche here rather than actually being one…

    Never mind. Don’t tell me anything at all. Just move on with your new life outside of Mormonism and stop stalking us poor believing rubes.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

  157. It looks like the conversation is winding down, so I’d like to sum it up, if I may.

    1. It is important to teach modesty, including the “whys”, to our young people.

    2. It is important to teach young people, but especially adolescent girls, that they might be sending unintended messages with their choices in clothing.

    So far, so good. I wish we could also have a conversation like the one Kate hinted at. Are there better and worse ways to teach modesty? My mildly negative reaction to the post stems not from a knee-jerk reaction to anything perceived as anti-feminist, but from my very close personal relationship with two young women who have been hospitalized for anorexia. It seems to me that when we count the benefits to a certain way of teaching modesty, we also need to count the costs. For Geoff’s daughter, this approach works fine, and I am sincerely happy for her. She sounds like a terrific young woman. However, I can guarantee that there are others among her peers who do not thrive with this approach. Rather, the pressure from the constant reminders that they need to be attractive but not too attractive is more than they can handle at that age.

    I also agree completely with Kate’s point, that self-awareness and a grasp of nuance are major contributors to a healthy and happy life. BUT, that is asking a lot of adolescent people. The church is very good at many things, but one thing it is decidedly not good at is promoting a grasp of nuance. And YW and YM are undergoing changes which make self-awareness a real challenge sometimes. I think any productive approach to teaching modesty needs to begin with these two facts, and with an awareness that it is possible for us to do some real damage if we are not careful.

    Comment by Mark Brown — June 20, 2011 @ 7:29 am

  158. I just want to say…I loved this thread.

    Comment by Chris H. — June 20, 2011 @ 8:57 am

  159. Forgive me for only reading about the first dozen posts, as this is a thread that just keeps on giving. However, being an expert on biology – after all, I did watch all the episodes of PBS’ Nature at least 3 times, I can say that Geoff is right.

    The males in nature are not picky about who they pass their seed onto, just that they pass their seed on. Yet, the female of species are picky. They want the strongest, best looking, and healthiest males.

    While human males can auto-manage their desires at times, it does not get away from the natural desire to pass on their seed – which can only be done with a woman involved.

    Comment by Rameumptom — June 20, 2011 @ 9:33 am

  160. Mark (157) Rather, the pressure from the constant reminders that they need to be attractive but not too attractive is more than they can handle at that age.

    I don’t see Geoff saying that. I disagree with Geoff’s main point since (as I understand it) he’s arguing that there’s some instinctual understanding here, that kids really understand the whole social-sexual communication, and that their main problem is just an arrogance about ones actions. However I don’t think this really has anything to do with being attractive or too attractive. It’s also quite independent about how physically attractive someone is independent of clothing. (Although typically clothing, styling and makeup etc. can make someone look better – as true of men as it is with women)

    Eating disorders are problematic although I think that can be dangerous ground for the Church to get engaged in. Hopefully teachers and leaders know the young women in their stewardship and can help there. But I have a hard time attributing any kind of disorder of that sort to modesty talk. Especially considering all the blatant messages in the media and among peers that do give bad messages in that regard. If anything the manuals seem to be communicating that modesty isn’t just about sex but is about drawing attention to yourself through “extreme” clothing. (Which is a pretty subjective judgment of course)

    Comment by Clark — June 20, 2011 @ 9:41 am

  161. Clark,

    I don’t think we disagree as much as you imply. I think kids like being popular and girls discover very quickly that teasing and flirting makes them popular with boys. I think these behaviors are instinctual for both boys and girls. So maybe it is not as much arrogance as innocence/naivete on the part of some girls who flirt/tease in sexual ways. In any case it behooves the adults to help the youth be careful about the verbal and non-verbal messages they are sending out — especially if we are hoping to have the law of chastity followed.

    I very much agree with your point about eating disorders as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 20, 2011 @ 11:24 am

  162. Anorexia is a complicated issue with 50% of anorectic and bulimic patients reporting a history of sexual abuse vs 28% of a control population. In addition there are other underlying psychological issues unrelated to body image or modesty but righteous guilt trips relating to sex and modesty should be avoided with these susceptible individuals.

    Comment by Howard — June 20, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  163. I apologize if I’m repeating any of what the above comments stated, but I have a bit to say :)

    It was acutely crucial for me to learn to look away from immodestly dressed girls in high school. It wasn’t my purpose to objectify any girl; the principle of keeping my thoughts pure and not to gaze upon any of the body parts the ladies were showing me, well, it allowed me to put all my energy into finding someone with a BRILLIANT personality. It’s still very important to be physically attracted to your spouse, too.

    I recall going through phases where looks became really important to me, and my attention span couldn’t keep me on any girl. It was almost comical, except for the fact that I knew I’d never be happy in a relationship for longer than a few months since “the grass was always greener.” When I didn’t know a girl, they were always more attractive to me. When I did get acquainted with them (and their human flaws) they moved to the bottom of my list. If that’s not treating women as objects, I don’t know what is.

    I also enjoyed this thread quite a bit. I can’t identify with the huge concern for minute details in what is being taught; as a youth, I heard the message and used the Holy Spirit to guide my decisions. As Latter-Day Saints, we may worry about the subtle messages that may be there or may be imagined by the teacher, but we are all offered the Spirit as a constant companion. The Spirit will guide the right attitude if we and the youth seek it.

    Comment by Jason — June 21, 2011 @ 6:36 am

  164. I realize I’m very late to this discussion, but I have indeed heard formal Church lessons instructing Young Men to dress in an appropriate matter so as not to induce feelings of lust or disgust in Young Women.

    Sadly, the discussion went in the direction of shorts-too-tight rather than the buttoned-up perfectionist look of James Bond in a tuxedo. But, it was Idaho, where modest Sunday dress meant clean Wrangler jeans without chaw circles on the butt and without holes in the knees.

    Comment by merkin4 — June 21, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  165. You know, I was sexually assaulted in sacrament meeting. With people watching me crying and the man putting his hands all over my body and nobody saying anything. I was dressed exceptionally modestly. And I would have assumed that me being at church would have signified that I wasn’t looking for a sexual partner. The assault happened anyway. From what I’ve seen, modesty doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that both males and females consent to any sexual activity, period. Males can and should be taught to respect females regardless of their dress and cultural setting. I sort of WISH females were gatekeepers of sexuality, because then me saying NO to unwanted touching would be enough. But it wasn’t, and it still isn’t. We are responsible for our own actions, and modesty shouldn’t change that one bit.

    Comment by homefree44 — June 22, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  166. homefree44,

    This post isn’t about sexual assault or sexual predators.

    What happened was horrible but it is sort of off topic here.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 22, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  167. To the contrary, when you equate modesty with the “I’m not looking for a sexual partner” message, and you say that women are the “gatekeepers” for sexual interaction, you are enforcing the idea that women have control over men’s actions. They don’t. And the whole “gatekeeper” assumption also automatically makes the male a sexual predator, who is always looking for sex but it is somehow up to the woman to deny it–which is also a dangerous myth.

    Comment by homefree44 — June 22, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

  168. Sexual assault happens when the victim doesn’t want sexual contact. That is not what we are talking about here.

    I have never once said women control men’s actions. Re-read this whole thread if you doubt me on that. But is it an obvious fact that women generally influence men (and vice versa).

    Women are indeed the gatekeepers of consensual sex in our species. This is particularly evident in modern western cultures. See my example in comment #2 of how easy it is for most any woman to find a willing sexual partner on a moments notice vs. the prospects of most men on that front. This is because of our evolutionary design.

    Just because many/most men in the world are evolutionarily designed to be eager takers when a woman gives them a green light for sex does not mean that many/most men are sexual predators. Refusal to acknowledge that difference is a major failing of some of the commenters in this thread.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 22, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  169. Also, I never said women are the “gatekeepers of sexuality” as you put it in #165. That is your wording and implies something different that being the gatekeepers of consensual sex.

    Also from #165: Males can and should be taught to respect females regardless of their dress and cultural setting.

    I completely agree with this. It is not out of harmony with my post at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 22, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

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