Friday, 7 February 2014

When Eve Wears a Miniskirt

The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me — she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”
—Genesis 3:12

Some nights ago, I had an interesting conversation with a dear brother in Christ and St. Dominic. The conversation steered into the matter of keeping custody of the eyes. I was then reminded of an incident in the country a few years ago.

It was the controversy of miniskirt. A young lady was raped in a public transport, and the perpetrator blamed her for wearing a miniskirt. Many Muslim organisations agreed that it was the lady's fault; some, I read, even used the incident as an argument for promoting sharia law. Of course, the feminists did not accept: they argued that it was the man who could not guard his eyes, it was the man's fault for being lustful, and that women should be free to wear whatever they want. Indonesia, after all, is not an Islamic country.

We agree AND disagree with both parties, and here's why.

First, let me make it clear that a crime is a crime is a crime. Rape is a crime, a violation of one's dignity. The perpetrator was guilty of an utterly heinous crime against human dignity; this should not be debated. So yes, it was indeed his fault that he should submit to lustful desires. No, the rape victim wasn't guilty of that rape.

However — and I'm going to be really careful here — wearing a miniskirt or other immodest dresses does not appear to help with the situation either.

Generally speaking, men do have higher and/or stronger sex drive than women, thanks to their higher level of, and quicker response to, the hormone testosterone. [Read a comparative article here, and this journal here, if you're feeling scientific] But that's biology, and men are not only biology. They also have souls, intellect, and free will. Passions are supposed to submit to reason; that's called integrity, and it's a preternatural gift that got corrupted since the Fall of Adam. That's why you guys must learn —harder now — to exercise custody of the eyes. (Yes, you can do it. You are more than just a lump of good-looking cells.)

But what about us women? Well, if we truly think of men as our brothers, then we should help keep their fiery passions in check. Isn't woman called to be the helpmate of man? To be really blunt, many men nowadays do not know how to act like men because we do not act like ladies. A thing can become its true self only when it is contrasted with its stark opposite.

We influence each other; boys, especially, tend to have a childhood idol like a superhero, a historical figure, or his dad/grandfather, a "cool" person that inspires him to explore and develop his better side. Following that logic, then, a man has to be inspired by women, inspired enough to think that women are worthy to be courteous to, and enough to be the best man he can be.

How do we do it? First, by dressing modestly. Yes, modesty in fashion is a little vague and hard to describe. But Michelle Arnold has a well-written explanation on Blessed Virgin's Guide to Catholic Modesty, with sensitivity to different cultures and a reminder of the difference between imitation and mere mimicry. Simply stated, modesty is "keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity." (CCC #2522)

But more important than fashion is attitude. Modest clothing only works so far, we also have act modestly. Young women need to be aware that they have the power to help shape a guy to be a gentleman, or to seduce him into becoming a beast. The way we talk, dance, move, can either pronounce or disgrace our true beauty. Modest attitude complement modest clothing, and modest clothing can help us act accordingly. Remember that human is body AND soul, and we are called to integrity.

Lastly, let me close this post with a rather sharp saying from St. John Chrysostom:
"You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment, and much more effectively than you could by your voice. When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges in court punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death-dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body, but the soul. And it is not to enemies that you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride."


Image: "Original Sin", by Salvador Dali, 1941


  1. Really great post, Anna! I do have some reservations about the mini-skirted woman having any real culpability for the rape, because rape is generally accepted as a crime of violence, rather than lust..hence many rapists attack women in their 70's and 80's even. We recently had several such incidents in my city.

    But, I absolutely agree with everything else you wrote. I am so horrified when I see the way women and young teens flaunt cleavage, short skirts, skimpy blouses, and the new obsession, skin tight leggings worn like slacks!

    I see these everywhere, and sometimes without even a blouse that reaches their thighs! I see this in church. I feel so sorry for the guys. I have heard good Christian men call Catholic radio and complain about the "distraction" at Mass. Heaven help them at the beach, etc. These are holy men trying to be chaste, and they are having a real battle. I hate sitting next to my husband and seeing the commercials on TV with all the women dressing and moving provocatively to sell peanut butter, for goodness sakes! I hate seeing women objectified, because it affects all of us. I wish they would get the message and cover up! Thanks again for a great and much needed perspective on this!

    1. Hey Patricia, thanks for dropping by! Yeah I had to be reaaaally careful in delivering my points... I really didn't (NEVER!) mean to blame the victim... just saying that we have to do our parts in helping to *diminish* the probability of it happening. But I'm sure you understood that :)

      I blame the modern media with their "sex sells" principle. It then becomes ingrained in the subconscious of young girls that they have to be sexually provocative to turn heads, and "turning heads" they associate with actually being loved. The more reason why we have to introduce True Love to the world!

  2. I DID understand, Anna. Although rape should never happen, even if a woman is wearing NOTHING, but women who dress provocatively certainly are responsible for stirring up lustful feelings in probably more men than we we realize. Who knows how many are driven to porn or sinful thoughts and actions because of immodesty? It's been around forever, but it wasn't always "in style." Appalling today what even pre-teens are wearing.

    PS Of course I drop gave me THREE! I would have been here sooner, if I had known you existed....lurker-friend ;)

  3. There are cultures where clothes are hardly worn and women aren't raped for having bare breasts etc... violence has nothing to do with the clothes a woman is wearing (I don't care how carefully you say it - you're way off the mark there - why aren't a man's legs considered taboo or too sexy when he wears short shorts?) I dress modestly and make it clear that that I am content and faithful in my relationship yet still have to constantly deal with objectification because of the size of my breasts... 'the beast' you refer to is created by the parents who are proud that their boys are performing sex acts in the playground but don't want to talk about the misguided daughters that are giving them... (is that the girls fault too)

    Young women need to be honoured and respected, not expected to "be aware that they have the power to help shape a guy to be a gentleman, or to seduce him into becoming a beast." First of all many a man has been turned into a gentleman through the art of seduction - it's society's responsibility to teach boys to be gentlemen - not young girls - they struggle enough with their own personal battles - they need to be protected not walk the streets or catch public transport in fear.

    Reflex Reactions

    1. Dearest Ida,

      Thanks for your comment! I'm very much aware of such cultures, because I come from a country whose diverse cultures include those with minimal covering of the body. I did have that in mind when I wrote this article but I decided not to delve into the topic because it would be too wide and too deep… Maybe I will write about it next time, though :)

      The point of this article is to remind everyone, but especially women, that this problem is a two-way street. I'm certainly not blaming a particular gender here. However, I do feel sorry for the good and sincere men out there (yes, they still exist) who are having an even harder time to fight temptations when all around them girls and women are being bought into the culture of over-sexualisation. The idea here is to share the burden, the responsibility, because that is part of our universal calling to holiness: to help each other get to Heaven.

      Yes, I'm also aware that many cases of rape and other types of sexual abuse are multi-sided; sometimes we cannot really place a blame on the parties involved… maybe the fault lies way back, such as in parenting style, past traumatic experience, etc. If this is not apparent in my post, and if everything I say sounds like I denigrate or belittle the members of my own gender, then I apologise.

      You did raise an interesting question: "Why aren't a man's legs considered taboo or too sexy when he wears short shorts?" I have to do some research and address that some time later.


    2. I guess when it comes down to it I think sexuality should be taken out of the equation when it comes to rape. I don't believe it is a two way street - and we do rapists a favour by saying so. Rape has nothing to do with sex, it is an act violence, power and control the motivator not sexual satisfaction... boys get raped, old women get raped, modest dressed women get raped... women rape - a girl in a mini skirt is no less responsible for her rape then a young boy in a swimming costume (or any outfit) is - thanks for your response, I do hope you consider the 'man's legs' example a bit further.


Any thoughts...?