Modesty as an act of charity


#1

[This post has been edited for clarity in light of Benedam’s reply below.]

In light of the #MeToo thread, the issue of modesty in how we dress has come up with the usual debate of whether it’s victim blaming to say women shouldn’t be dressed immodestly as that is an invitation to be harassed.

My personal opinion is that even if a woman is walking down the street naked, it does not give any man the right to harass or sexually molest her. He is 100% responsible for how he responds to immodesty. He has a duty to look away if he’s tempted to lust or to take any kind of liberties to obtain sexual satisfaction in thought, word or deed. Indeed, in a situation this extreme it would be quite chivalrous if he would offer her his coat while trying his best to keep his eyes averted.

Having said that, the above principle of the male’s responsibility doesn’t mean that women should have license to walk down the street naked or dressed in a sexually provocative way, not because they should be legally responsible if a man commits a crime against them or that it legally mitigates his responsibility, but because it’s uncharitable. If we are going to be honest, it’s not a secret that men, depending on their personal level of self-discipline, are generally more easily tempted to lust in thought, word or deed at the site of a provocatively dressed woman. Women, in choosing their dress, should keep this in mind as an act of charity for those men who are struggling with fighting temptation or to at least not contribute to the sin of those who don’t even try to fight it.

In a recent article by Anthony Esolen, he stated that both sexes need to be aware of the general weaknesses of the other.

Quote
"We must live with one another such as we are. Charity, forbearance, an honest admission of one’s susceptibility to sin, and consideration for the susceptibility of others, particularly members of the opposite sex, whose feelings are sometimes quite different from ours, should govern our choices in dress, speech, and physical deportment.

Do not lay a snare in your neighbor’s path."

What is your position on the modesty issue as it relates to sexual harassment? Is Anthony Esolen’s take a reasonable one that men and women should agree on? (especially for Christians)

Here is his article if you want to get the full scope of his argument

https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2018/01/15/modesty-and-charity/


#2

I would absolutely agree with this. It’s a concise explanation of something I have wanted to say for a long time, but havent known how.


#3

Right. If you take out the emotionally charged issue of sexual harassment, it’s not difficult to see the reasonableness of asking women to dress modestly as an act of charity to assist men in their fight against the temptation of lust rather than as a responsibility for men’s actions.

For example, if one were mindful and charitable, you wouldn’t invite a recovering alcoholic to dinner and then serve wine. For sure, they are responsible if they choose to drink as it’s their temptation to overcome but it would have been a failure of the duty to charity on the host’s part to serve it in the first place.

To deny we have this duty towards our neighbor, is to deny a key tenet of the Christian faith.


#4

The purpose of modesty is to not create an environment that will cause scandal.


#5

I wrote
"Having said that, the above principle of the male’s responsibility doesn’t mean that women should have license to walk down the street naked or dressed in a sexually provocative way, not because they are responsible for how a man responds but because it’s uncharitable."

You replied

I agree and perhaps for clarity’s sake, I can re-word that part of the sentence.

"Having said that, the above principle of the male’s responsibility doesn’t mean that women should have license to walk down the street naked or dressed in a sexually provocative way,

…not because they should be legally responsible if a man commits a crime against them or that it legally mitigates his responsibility,

but because it’s uncharitable."

That might be more clear and I may amend some of the other wording to make my point clear because we are talking about things on two different levels - what is currently legal in our system of law and then what is spiritually binding on an individual level.


#6

I couldn’t agree more!


#7

Another modesty thread?


#8

Perhaps men should start wearing blinders as an act of charity, so that women can walk down the street without being harassed.


#9

So it’s not a sin to cause scandal? It isn’t a case of being more charitable. It’s a case of women acting with no charity. Sin is in the heart in this matter.


#10

I do think that is a given for any man of conscience.


#11

No. Because women are not being told to wear burkas or to even wear bulky clothes that hide their form completely like some fundamentalist sects. There are plenty of clothes that women can wear that are modest but don’t hide the fact they are a woman. It’s a difference between respecting a woman’s liberty to wear anything that isn’t indecent even if it makes them look particularly pretty or attractive and her taking excessive liberty in not caring that she’s being sexually provocative in the way she’s dressed.

Catholics aren’t about unnecessarily restricting freedom so far as to prevent the possibility that someone might use their free will to sin, but rather they require freedom within certain bounds that don’t “exercise on the will of another an influence more or less great which induces to sin.” (to borrow from the Catholic Encyclopedia)

Blinders for men would be trying to restrict freedom to the point of restricting the will. Modest clothing just asks us to use our free will to choose that which is good.


#12

I think the men on this forum who have so much trouble with lust should, in charity, wear dark sunglasses and carry a white cane. Better to walk around blind than burn from lust.

Now if you do think women dress provocatively, please indicate what is too provocative. This is where things get tricky. In my opinion, anything that shows cleavage or butt cheeks is too provocative. Is a skirt with a slit in it too provocative? What about spaghetti shoulder straps, yoga pants, or mini-skirts with dark tights underneath? What about jeans that are too tight? If so, what about older, fat women walking around in sweat pants which are bursting at the seams? Is that too provocative?

And how are you going to legislate all this? I do think we should teach women to be modest, but honestly guys, horse blinders are starting to look like good alternatives for men. They could use visual aid computerized glasses which erase the sight of a woman and leave the rest of the street in tact?


#13

Modesty is a charitable act only as much as not murdering someone is charitable.

Being immodest is a sin. Modesty should be the norm of behaviour.
Need I remind you that scandal is a sin?


#15

I’m new here. Are there many men who admit to having trouble with lust on this forum? If so, I guess if one is that self-aware and wanting to actively avoid the sin, your solution could be one they would choose to use as a tool to help themselves but I wouldn’t prescribe it for anyone.

"On November 8, 1957, Pope Pius presented the still-valid principles of modesty in dress.

Clothing fulfills three necessary requirements: hygiene, decency and adornment. These are “so deeply rooted in nature that they cannot be disregarded or contradicted without provoking hostility and prejudice.”

Hygiene pertains mostly to “the climate, its variations, and other external factors” (e.g. discomfort, illness). Decency involves the “proper consideration for the sensitivity of others to objects that are unsightly, or, above all, as a defense of moral honesty and a shield against disordered sensuality.” Adornment is legitimate and “responds to the innate need, more greatly felt by woman, to enhance the beauty and dignity of the person with the same means that are suitable to satisfy the other two purposes.”

I guess “older, fat women walking around in sweat pants which are bursting at the seams” would fall under "“proper consideration for the sensitivity of others to objects that are unsightly.” lol

I don’t think modest dress is going to come under any kind of legislation but dress codes in schools, government buildings, churches and places of business are always a good idea.


#16

Immodest dress, in my opinion, would be anything showing too much. Pretty self explanatory. Nothing too low cut, nothing above the knees. Simple. Men would be responsible for the sin but a woman would also be sinning by wearing immodest fashions. It is charitable to dress in a way so as to look out for others against lust.


#17

That’s a bit extreme in my opinion


#18

Not extreme. It’s common to find that opinion among those who dress modestly. If it’s hot out, a mid length dress is sufficient to cool down and to be modest as well.

Besides, I find it uncomfortable myself to wear shorter shorts or shorter dresses because it reveals too much while attempting to sit down.


#19

That’s fine, but I gotta say I do like when women wear short skirts, many women just cross their legs when they sit down. If you can’t do that (I for some reason cannot cross my legs and be comfortable) then it’s a good idea to not wear them. But I don’t think short skirts are necesarrily immodest


#20

Crossing legs doesn’t fix much. It shortens when you try to sit down or bend down. It’s just riskier wearing shorter dresses or skirts. Less coverage = higher risk to accidentally expose yourself.


#21

If one needs to get into definitions…above or below the knee…then I think that person doesn’t get the virtue.

It’s like a man asking for details on how to be confident.

You either get it or you don’t…no amount of spelling it out will acquire it.

Some women just get it. And they may be smoking beautiful or not, but modesty in the right way adds so much to the tone of a whole room.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.