cultural norms

how can one thing be considered ok in a given time period but not in another?

are moral standards relative when it comes to this?

I don’t just mean clothes this time, there are many other examples. different hairstyles, whether beards should be shaved or not, EtC…

what I have trouble understanding is, how is a new change not scandalous until we adapt to it? isn’t there a time period where it would cause others to be tempted ans sin? like ankle length skirts, thhen shifting to calf length and then knee length and nowadays even shorter. I’m sure after each change, people considered the new one to be immodest. but as far as we know now, knee length skirts are ok by most catholics.

is my question making sense now?

Only small groups of people introduce changes. In the past, different regions in different parts of the same country would create different forms of ethnic dress, heraldic symbols and even distinctive architectural styles. However, as outsiders created dictatorships of style and the Industrial Revolution allowed for the mass production of same, the other cultures became contaminated. While creating the illusion of change by modifying the above, it just gave manufacturers a chance to slowly impose what an elite group thought was acceptable.

What language do Americans speak? English. One of the great financial centers of the world was/is in England, followed the fledgling financial center in New York. Money drives everything and we are still living in Medieval times. Oh, the crowns and robes are gone but the rich and those who strike their fancy, need more to do than count their money. They can manipulate the media, public behavior, fashion and so on, to suit their tastes, not ours.

What we have been sold is nothing less than evil in recent decades. “Greed is good” to quote a Wall Street character in a movie. DO NOT get used to it. Your soul is at stake.

Do not follow the world in doing evil.

And tune out most of the media.


Hello Angel,

It’s because these things are not really matters of Faith, but more cultural matters. As cultures mix, cultural influences change.

For example, long hair on women used to be a sign of chastity (even among pagans before the time of Christ). As part of the public punishment for prostitution, the woman’s hair would be cut off. This was a public sign that she was a prostitute. This also lead to women wearing veals in public as a way to make the hair seem longer. Over time, this developed into another sign of chastity.

Depending on the culture, beards have been signs of holiness or being uncivilized. The Ancient Jewish priests would wear beards while in Ancient Rome, the elites would typically shave. After all, a beard in the dry desert would protect your face from the sun and sandstorms. While in the wet heat of Italy, no beard would help you cool and stay cleaner.

Even black eye shadow (soot over the eyes) began as a way to help one see better in the harsh sunlight of Egypt and Persia (like how professional athletes use the black during day games). But over time, it became seen by the conservative pagan Romans and pagan Greeks as taboo (especially for men using it) because it wasn’t a Roman or Greek thing to do. It also was associated with people who worshiped different gods.

The Catholic Church has historically used the secular/cultural signs of outward signs of Chastity/modesty/and holiness for both men and woman.

The Church rarely ever dictated those public signs, it’s only really preached that we must be chaste and avoid scandal. The local cultures have typically defined what those norms were.

I hope I’m making sense… It is approx 1am after all.

God Bless

I get what you are saying, and I think given enough time and exposure to whatever the change may be, say its ankle length skirts, then knee length, now they are barely long enough to cover their butts! and you are right, when the new lengths come out, some modest people have problems with them, see them as sinful, but after enough time has passed and they see them regularly, it seems most people end up just accepting them.

This is probably just how our brains work, we get used to something eventually, no matter what it is, we also become desensitized to things if we see them enough, they no longer provide the ‘shock’ they did when we first saw them.

So, currently many people dont think too highly of the very short skirts, but I think given enough time, most people will come to accept them, it will be no different when they all accepted knee length compared to ankle lengths.

This general idea goes for other things too, and some can be dangerous, if we ‘get used’ to certain activities, it can lead to alot of problems, this is how much of our freedom is lost over time, they start with something small, a new regulation or law here and there, give people time to get used to it, then another one is created, etc, etc,. will go on and on until we have little to no freedom and no one will even recognize it…slow and methodical is the key. (just look at our current system/ laws for proof of this!)

yes, it does. how, as catholics, should we deal with these changes though?

is it wrong to adapt to the changes? e.g. shorter skirts? and aren’t we causing others to sin?

I think it’s could be wrong to adapt changes that go against your own conscience or go against the majority of moral and/or mature society.

For example:

  1. I think it’s wrong for little girls to wear shorts so short that the bottom of their butt cheeks are slipping out of each leg. However, I can accept shorter shorts if the top is modest. Or a less modest top if the pants are modest. But often, what happens is that BOTH the shirt and top are not modest.

  2. I feel it’s wrong for young girls (under 17) to dress in a provocative way as to become attractive to 30 year old men. We should be able to look at a 13-17 year old girl and tell that she’s between 13-17. We shouldn’t be mistaking them for a 22 year old.

  3. I feel it’s wrong for young girls (or boys) to dress like they are going to a rave when going to the mall.

I think men and women need to actually speak to one another. Girls should be taught not to wear things which cause boys/men to sin AND boys should be taught to keep custody of their eyes. But society really needs to have both. For if girls dress modestly but boys have no custody or their eyes, they will still find ways to objectify women/girls. But if all boys learn custody of their eyes, but all girls dress provocatively, then boys/men won’t even be able to look at a women. Can’t have one without the other. Good male friends will be truthful with you.

A rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t want one of the following to see the way you are dressed, then chances are you are not dressed modestly: mom, dad, a grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt/uncle, friend of your parents, employer, boyfriend’s mom, your priest, your Bishop, etc.

Another rule of thumb, if you object to your little sister or a young 12 year old child wearing it, then chances are it might not be modest (I’m not talking about dresses or female suits).

While it’s wrong to judge a book by it’s cover; we all do it. You never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression. You never know when someone might see you on the street or in the mall and think you look like a “slut” or “slacker” and then interview you for a job the next day.

Now, if a girl is dressed modestly, and a boy/man still objectifies her, then the sin is totally his. Scandal only comes into play if that boy/man would not have sinned had the girl been dressed modestly (men can also be dressed in a way that scandalizes women too).

Finally, the tough part is how to figure out if your are dressed modestly or not. It’s subjective. So the key is not to base it off your own subjectiveness, but that of normal mature society (like up above). I think if a man is scandalized by seeing your ankles, that’s his problem, unless of course you showed your ankles on purpose to scandalize him because you knew. But if a man feels scandalized because you are wearing tight shorts with you butt cheeks hanging out, a low cut top with your bra and most of your breast showing from the front, no leaves so we can see most of breasts from the side, no back so we can see your entire back and bra, and that the shirt is white, mostly see though so we can see your black bra (or no bra)… then I think most of society would agree that you are dressed provocatively.
I hope this is helpful.

Shorter skirts are wrong. And bikinis - My God. I saw a model wearing a bikini bottom in a store advertisement. It was a few millimeters away from being totally obscene. Right now, it is obscene. A swimsuit should not look like underwear or less. It does cause others to sin. Men will always react the same way to this. I will never go to a beach again. I don’t want to see anything like that. And thong type bikini bottoms - really bad.

As Catholics, we must keep custody of our eyes. Leering at scantily clad women is wrong.


yeah, thanks for your answer, I get it.

what I’m still having trouble with is this: at a certain point in time, the entirety of western society thought that displaying ankles, or calfs or knees was wrong. now today, we don’t thinki it’s wrong anymore. what happened between then and now? did we let our standards slip?

who’s to say we won’t think all those things you described above are ok soon?

There is no morality, per se, in cultural trends. Either positive or negative.

That being said, one can conclude from the moral code in scripture that dressing in such a way to cause another to lust is sinful. What is such a way? In some cultures, this can be construed as a woman not wearing a head covering. (Ever been through Amish country?) In other cultures, a woman is not inviting lust until baring her thighs.

So while God’s standards never change, where you are determines whether you are following God’s standards or not with what you’re wearing. And that is the definition of cultural norms.

I disagree. Men react to women a certain way and always will. Cultural so-called norms are dictated by a small group of global media corporations who spit out filth and decadence and depravity. And lots of casual sex and immodesty.


Really? do you believe that ALL men lust after scantily clad women?
I can see a well dressed (sometimes a little scantily) lady and appreciate her beauty, without any lust filled thoughts whatsoever.

That is one of the (many) problems I have with religion…it seems to me that it is only the religious that are obsessed with sex and sexuality.

I am not trying to be contentious, I am a member of CAF to gain knowledge, as I see your religion as the most devout…so please, prove me wrong.

The prevalence of sex throughout popular culture - music, movies, TV, magazines - would seem to contradict your assertion.

I think not. It is in the interpretation of the audience…and there is always viewer choice…free will and all that.

Interpretation? I have no idea what you mean there.

Yes, we can turn them off. The point is that these things are being put out there, and they are being well received. And I don’t think it is religious people that are driving either the production or consumption of them. The obsession with sex is a secular issue.

I assumed that interpretation was an easy word…sorry, it must be our ‘same’ language barrier.

I do agree that they are being well received, in the UK some of the most popular shows with the (shall we call them) lesser educated, involves sex, scantily clad ladettes (if you do not know that word, Google it, it will shock you to see young ladies acting like they do)…unfortunately I do not know the religious beliefs of the producers.

I think we will agree to disagree on your last sentence :slight_smile:

It’s usally an easy word; I just don’t think you’ve used it appropriately.

So to be clear…

When a singer explicitly sings about sex, or actors perform a sex scene, it doesn’t rely on any audience interpretation. These are not abstract art forms that require the audience to intepret the meaning of the artist. The audience merely views/listens without any need to contribute. There is no interpretation as you suggest.

Oh, I get you now, sorry for the ambiguity.

I still think my use was right…:slight_smile:

If a singer performs explicit, sexual lyrics it will be censored…and the wider audience will hear nothing but innuendos. If actors performing sex scenes were actually having sex, once again, it would be censored…it is left to the audience’s interpretation.

The same is true all over our society…I see a little girl playing in the park, I think of innocence…the paedophile will sexually objectify her…our interpretations of the event differs greatly

Maybe in England there is such censorship, but here in Australia pretty much anything goes on commercial radio in terms of sexual lyrics now. The music of previous generations used to contain innuendo, some of which could be rather clever, but today the artists just seem to get straight to the point.

The paedophile has a sickness. If he sexually objectifies a little girl it is due to this sickness.

If I sexually objectify a singer twerking on stage, or an actor playing out an explicit sex scene, it’s an entirely natural reaction to what they are doing, and pretty much what they intended.

There are of course more subtle degrees in between these extremes, and here there may be an interaction between the performer and the audience - as you say, a level of interpretation.

I’m no prude. I simply deny the charge that religious people are more obsessed with sex than others.

Hi, sorry for a late reply, it was getting to be morning and I needed sleep.
I do agree with all your points…even though I have no idea what ‘twerking’ is!

As to your last sentence…I will concede that you are probably right. ‘Obsessed’ was probably the wrong word; I think that it is a more salient factor in how you live your life of faith…to me, the downward spiral of sexual morals has no bearing on my life, so I probably choose to ignore it.
My original post was refuting the claim that ALL guys have lustful thoughts over scantily clad females (to be honest, I find it scary haha), and I still refute that statement.

That should be self-evident. And it has only gotten worse in each decade.

1970s A little bad.

1980s A lot more bad but still mixed with the good.

1990s Into the abyss. Prostitutes interviewed as “porn stars”?

2000s I’m flipping through a magazine for teenage girls and I see a photo of a nice-looking woman. Under the photo I read: “Yes, I’m a porn star.” [prostitute]

Recently, on another message board where I’m a moderator, a group of people proclaim that porn has gone mainstream. It has crossed the dirty, filthy, get rid of it barrier into our daily lives. Isn’t that wonderful?

Uh, no.


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