I know we don’t all share the same standards here and some would scoff at the thought that there is such a thing as immodest dress at all. But I’ve been discussing the topic in a smaller, private forum with some like-minded friends and decided to share some of my thoughts on this issue here.
I was a teenaged girl who dressed *very* immodestly- my parents did make rules and set standards but when they were not looking I rolled up my skirts or removed the modest shirt they’d approved to wear the immodest, very skimpy top underneath that they knew nothing about.
Biblically speaking, if my clothing or the lack of it bothered somebody, they ought to have followed Matthew 18 and come to me personally. I don’t recall that anybody at church ever did. I would be afraid to do that myself, so I understand why nobody did. However, while I don’t know exactly what I would have done if somebody had approached me personally, but I am not at all convinced that the fact that my reaction would have doubtless been sinful and hostile is a good excuse and gave everybody a free pass from Mt. 18.
At a few Bible class lessons and teen devotions, I was personally the object of a couple of very pointed lessons about dressing modestly.. It was obvious they were talking about me and I did not care. In fact, once or twice I was amused and saw the lessons as proof that I had made an impact. Since I was dressing for attention, to me that was a positive result. I knew they didn’t approve of me, but they couldn’t ignore me, and that was good enough for me. I also got plenty of attention from other young men in the group that seemed *quite* positive to me. Mostly it really wasn’t, but I truly did not understand the fires I was starting and I had all kinds of issues stemming from childhood sexual abuse- when people talked about issues of respect, lust, modesty, dressing the right way so as not to attract the wrong sort of attention, stumbling blocks, etc- they might as well have been speaking a foreign language. It was that incomprehensible to me.
Also, spiritually I was essentially bleeding out, and to talk about how I was a stumbling block to others- although that was certainly true- would have been kind of like telling somebody who is bleeding to death that they are standing on your foot, oh, and they are having a wardrobe malfunction and getting blood all over everybody else. Yes, that maybe true, but there are deeper issues going on.
There was *one* person who did approach me personally about my immodest behavior and dress- it was a Catholic biology teacher at my high school who rebuked me for making out with a boyfriend in the hall right outside his classroom door. He also briefly touched on the way I dressed. It wasn’t a long lecture, but he gently expressed disappointment and sadness for *me.* He didn’t talk about third parties much except to say that I was inviting their disrespect and disregard for me as a human being, and that this made him sad, and he wondered why I didn’t respect myself more, and have confidence in myself as a person to be able to get positive attention based on my pretty face and fun personality rather than my body, and encouraged me to rely less on my body and more on myself and said I’d find a better class of guy than those he usually saw me with, too- he was a little more circumspect than that, but that was the gist.
This is not a happy story where his kind words made all the difference and I suddenly saw the light and changed my behavior. My response was not nice- I am pretty sure I mocked him openly and I probably called him some very rude version of old fogey and said it was none of his business. But the truth was he did make an impact. I didn’t change anything then and there, at least not on the outside, but I never did forget his words, and it was the first time I ever thought about the fact that I did dress this way because I was absolutely ravenous for male attention of any sort, and I didn’t think I deserved the right kind of attention or was likely to get it by any other means. I had learned that this was a surefire way of getting male attention and had very fast results, but I had not ever thought about *why* I was so desperate for attention. As I said, it didn’t fix anything at the time, but it really did make an impact on me, even if it was three or four years before I changed on the outside.
I know armchair diagnosis is risky at worst and silly at best, and that my personal pathology is not necessarily true of every girl who dresses like a tramp, but it was true of me.
And here is something every mother of sons should be aware of. I’ve thought and thought about what would have made a difference in the way I dressed, and there is one thing- if it had not worked to get me attention, I would have changed. If the boys in my group at church had turned away from me when I walked in the room instead of lighting up and gravitating to me like a moths to a candle flame, I would have changed. If they had made it a point to ignore me and give all the attention I got to the modestly dressed girls instead, I would have changed my clothes in a New York Minute. I’ve seen that played out at churches in several locations, and church groups and get-togethers. Boys often complain about the immodest clothes of the girls, but it was *not* the modestly dressed girls they are chatting up after services.
I have started telling my son he has a greater responsibility than merely averting his eyes. He has a responsibility to encourage the modestly clothed maidens by speaking to them and not rewarding immodestly dresses girls with his attention- not to be rude, but not to behave in such a way that affirms to them that dressing that way is a ticket to male attention. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded yet- that’s a lot of power and wisdom to expect from a teen-aged boy raging with hormones, but it’s a start at least.