Clothing attire causes much area for confusion and disagreement and even judgement. Especially when talking about women’s clothing attire. Especially when talking about women’s clothing attire and the sexual implications. I’ve recently heard of a movement called “Free the Nipple”. The issue is women want to be able to walk around shirtless and show their nipples because guys can do it. They want to say there’s an unfair oppression of women in this area. In some ways I would agree with them. In other ways I wouldn’t. The main disagreement I would have would be with the issue of sexual enticing being put off and the sexual image being put off. In my opinion, I think in a lot of ways this would create a greater propensity to treat women as sexual objects (which is already at an intolerable affinity), it will cause those who are attracted to females to lust more, and also will turn into even more of a pride issue for women. Now pride is and always will be an issue and some people don’t see that as an issue in the same way I do.
My first two points I think will essentially be met with some form of argument against adhering to culture. They may bring up that there are and have been groups of people who have their women walk around topless and men aren’t groping or staring or erected at all times. They bring this up to show that boobs (and essentially the whole body) have been culturally constructed to be viewed as sexual. They would say that some parts of the body are only sexually scandalous because culture has deemed them that way, but not because they are inherently like that. I would agree to that to a large extent. As the story goes, Adam and Eve were once naked but never sexually consumed or possessed by the other’s body. So, I think there’s some validity there, but I do think there is some inherent sexualization of some body parts based off of what’s pleasurable during sex and the anatomy of concentrated nerve endings in these sexualized places. So, I agree to some extent that certain parts of the body are sexualized or over sexualized do to culture and aren’t inherently meant to be viewed in a certain way. However, I don’t think that really matters and it shouldn’t deter people from dressing modestly.
We’ve already established modesty is greatly to the effect of the culture so it will change which each culture. The first reason why cultural modesty should be relevant to the Free the Nipple movement is because of how it will cause so many to sin. I think it’s undeniable that if women started to walk around topless, we would have more people, especially men, lusting and viewing women as sexual objects. You can object and say well that’s not fair that women have to suffer and be oppressed because men can’t control their sexual appetite. You would be correct, that’s not fair. It’s not women’s fault that men can’t control their lust when looking at bare breasts and just breasts in general. Unfortunately, in some way women can still be responsible for the sin of men. Paul talks about this concept of giving up your rights in order not to cause another to stumble. So, in this example, a woman could go topless with a clear conscience and that would be her right, but if it’s going to make someone else sin then she needs to give it up.
Now this concept can be taken to the extreme and pushed further than it’s meant to be and needs to be understood uniquely in different contexts, but I think it does apply here. I can’t support something that would essentially result in some people “forcing” others to sin. It doesn’t force anyone to sin but the result in men lusting more would be undeniable and would be directly related to seeing bare breasts. Next, I also don’t think the way to help people get over the issue of over sexualizing something is to desensitized them to it and make them numb to it. Women’s bodies are a gift from God when understood properly and appreciated in the correct context. It would be a shame if we just completely desexualized their bodies because there is so much joy and pleasure and beauty found in seeing the female body as sexually attractive when understood and appreciated correctly. So, I think the appropriate step would be to teach men how to view women’s bodies correctly and not try to numb them to their sexual nature.
Lastly, I would like to comment on modesty and why it’s a good thing and a virtue and why people associate it with respecting yourself. The reason why modesty is a thing is because it presupposes that there’s a particular way someone should view you and your body, and you don’t want to invite someone to view you in a way that violates that. So, I see this as saying that we need to understand we shouldn’t view women as sexual objects and shouldn’t lust over them and think all the graphically sexual thoughts about them in our minds that we do. If women have that right then we shouldn’t violate that right. Women also shouldn’t dress in a way that is suggesting or inviting someone to violate that right. This is where the concept of self-respect comes in. You should see that this right you have to not be sexualized and mentally exploited is sacred and you should uphold that but if you are acting and portraying yourself in a way that diminishes or degrades or violates that right, it shows a lack of respect for yourself and your sacredness. So, if we lived in a culture that didn’t oversexualize women, maybe we wouldn’t have to be so concerned with how women dressed. However, we do live in this sort of society and practically speaking, I don’t think the best way to overcome that is to give men more reason to sexualize women, in an act that ultimately seems like it will just either desensitize men to their lust of women or to the sexual nature of women.
I think the best approach is to teach men how to appropriately view women. And honestly, I don’t think the appropriate way is to make men just see the woman body and as fleshy matter. I think sexual attraction is important and good and so men and women should be attracted to the sexual nature of each other. It needs to be taught how to promote your sexual nature appropriately and how to appreciate someone’s sexual nature appropriately, for both sexes. I didn’t get into this here, but I think there is an argument that men maybe shouldn’t be exposing their nipples in public either. To think that shirtless men don’t influence people to lust would be remarkably ignorant. As such, maybe men should consider dressing more modestly as well. As I conclude, just a couple caveats. As always, this post isn’t comprehensive but just some thoughts to consider. Also, I recognize the position of me a male, telling females what they should be doing with their bodies. I won’t deny that my gender and understanding of Christianity influences my beliefs on modesty, but these shouldn’t outright disqualify the ideas and thoughts given above.