Flesh Parades, Doug Wilson and Cinematic Nudity

Douglas Wilson has some good things to say here about some of the issues upstream of the modesty debate, which echoes the concerns I raised in my article ‘Slutwalk and the Negation of Feminine Sexuality.

Wilson also helpfully reminds us that when a woman reveals too much flesh, it is often not because she has too much sexual security but too little. Wilson writes,

One of the most striking things about these flesh parades is how unattractive it all is. As in, gekkk. … There are clearly numerous young ladies who have no one in their lives willing to speak to them truthfully. And when women don’t have someone who loves them like they ought to, they become susceptible to any number of fads, so long as someone — most likely a peer with the same emotional problems — is willing to tell them it is “cute.” Well, it isn’t. Sorry to break it to you. There also appears to be an inverse relationship between the class of the person and how many square feet are covered by the tattoo.

The problem here, at least within the church, is that hints don’t get you anywhere, no effect at all, and if you state the problem plainly, it flattens the poor girl for months, like somebody took a pastoral mallet to her. By “hints,” I mean general references in sermons to modesty and decorum, and by “stating plainly” I mean suggesting that she come to church next week with the mammalian pride dialed back just a skosh. The problem is not that she is secure in her sexuality — it is just the reverse. You can tell this because women who want to be “secure” in their sexuality in this way at the same time do not want men around them who are secure in their sexuality in a comparable way.

Click “more” to read the rest (not for young readers).

When Wilson suggests that the problem with women who parade their flesh is not that they are too secure in their sexuality but that they are too insecure in it, I thought of the recent controversy over Lara Pulver’s nude scene in the pre-watershed BBC1 Sherlock Holmes.

Actress Lara Pulver commented that it was "really empowering" to go completely naked in the new Sherlock Holmes series

Significantly, after appearing completely nude in front of Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (Dr Watson) for eight hours during the shooting (to say nothing of the more than 10 million viewers who were able to see sustained footage of Pulver in her birthday suit), Mrs. Pulver commented that “something really empowering takes over.”

This echoes many of the comments made by those women who participated in the slutwalks, who said that they felt “empowered” when they paraded down the streets of London in various stages of nudity.

If Douglas Wilson is right, a woman who is secure in herself and in her sexuality does not need to take off all her clothes to feel empowered. Indeed, when women think it is empowering to undress in front of men, that is often evidence that our society in general, and fathers in particular, are not giving them the respect and dignity they deserve. Lacking an inherent sense of their own worth, they feel compelled to prove themselves by parading their flesh. Sadly, this often gives women a false empowering that acts as a substitute to genuine female dignity.


Further Reading

Nudity and the Christian worldview

Gender, Morality and Modesty

Normalizing Sex

9 thoughts on “Flesh Parades, Doug Wilson and Cinematic Nudity

  1. Interesting article. Years ago I worked as a stripper. Now I am a conservative Christian, thanks a lot to your site and articles. Laura Pulver is right, something really empowering does take over when you exhibit your body like a bill-board. It’s called, “I have it, you want it, and you can’t have it.” Of course, the ‘you can’t have it’ part is backed up by society, laws, big bouncers, common decency of men, etc. When I was younger I believed I was able to do this because I was comfortable with my sexuality. I wasn’t. I liked the attention and people thinking I was comfortable with my sexuality. Now I really am at home with my sexuality. I worship a God who loves me and is jealous for me, though He only knows why. He sent his Son to die a discraceful death for me. I have been touched by the grace of God, and there is nothing else like it. I have a husband who loves me for who I am, not what I am. It is truly wonderful.


  2. The message these women are trying to convey is not one of empowering themselves sexually or being proud of their bodies. The “Slutwalks” are direct responses to various police comments which essentially blamed women for being raped because they had dressed “like a slut.” The point of the protest is to combat this thinking in investigating/prosecuting rape and assisting victims. You may disagree with the method these women have chosen, but the message should still ring true- rape is never excusable and a woman should not be denied justice because the dress she was wearing was a little short. This isn’t a feminist position, it’s a Christian one. When Christ came upon the Samaritan man, badly beaten, robbed, and left for dead, He didn’t say, “well, you shouldn’t have had your money so readily accessible, you shouldn’t have gone down this road alone, I mean, really, what did you expect?”


    1. Kelly, Robin Phillips actually wrote a very good article about the “slutwalk” phenomenon. Walking around nearly nude to protest rape is like having a “Twinkie” sit-in to protest obesity. Jesus tells us that if we find someone who is naked, we should clothe that person (Matthew 25:36), because they are obviously in need. When we find someone who has been abused, we treat them with compassion, but we don’t encourage them to pursue behavior that will lead to further abuse. When women insist they should be allowed to behave like “sluts” and be treated like ladies, they are saying there should be no consequences to their actions. This is neither logical nor biblical. God urges His people not to “play the harlot” and uses that imagery to show that the faithful need to behave faithfully. That’s all that’s being said here.


  3. Kelly, the policeman’s comment that women should “avoid dressing like sluts” was made under crime prevention, and in the best interest of women. (I must interject here and say that the policeman, especially given his office, could have used better words) But his statement had nothing to do with whether or not a woman is given justice after a crime has been committed – it was about crime prevention.

    I agree completely that women should not be denied justice, especially after a horrendous experience. But it is true that women can indeed lower their chances of being preyed upon or singled out by a rapist. Telling women to dress modestly as a way of preventing rape is just the same as telling them to avoid moving alone at night; both avenues are simply ways of lowering risk. Parents are told to keep an eye on their children to avoid kidnapping and molestation. Does it mean that if a child is molested, the parent is blamed for not watching the child and denied justice? Absolutely not! Yet parents make sure to do all they can to avoid these crimes befalling their children.

    This is the simple preventive logic the policeman was using, bus slut-walk has blown it out of proportion and made it look like he was suggesting that women should be blamed for rape.


  4. The quoted article from Doug Wilson is… well, to be perfectly honest, it’s cruel. I honestly cannot believe the things this man had to say. But what’s worse is that everyone is acting like he’s a saint for it.
    As a fat girl myself, you cannot believe how much it hurts to hear a man who claims Christ go on about how he wants us to cover up, not because it’s a crime, but because we’re so ugly.
    Jello on a plate?
    Because I am not a size zero– I’m not even a size ten– I’m ugly? What happened to inner beauty? What happened to being created in God’s image? What happened to looking at the heart? I guess that all goes out the window when you get love handles.
    It doesn’t take courage to call me ugly, Wilson. I’m fat. I already get that from movies and magazines. I really do not need you telling me how unattractive I am. Oh, and those people in these girls’ lives? The ones who aren’t “willing to speak to them truthfully”? They’re not blind. They can see past the cellulite. And they tell these girls they’re beautiful because they are. They tell them they’re beautiful and “cute” because there’s more to them than the pair of fat thighs that is apparently the only thing Wilson sees. These people display God’s perfect, forgiving love better than Wilson ever could.
    I don’t need Wilson telling me how fat and wobbly and ugly I am. His opinion does not matter to me, because Jesus totally blew it out of the water when He loved me enough to die for me. Jesus thinks I’m beautiful.
    Wilson needs to sort his priorities.


    1. Andrea, Pastor Wilson was not talking about “fat” women at all — he is talking about the tendency (even in Christian circles) for women to let their (ahem) breasts practically fall out of their tops. That’s the “Jello” to which he is referring. This has nothing to do with true beauty and everything to do with a lack of modesty and restraint. This is true for the size 4s and the size 24s.


  5. If he weren’t talking about fat women, he wouldn’t have said that, “there seems to be an inverse ratio between how many pounds overweight a young lady is and how little her clothing covers, resultig in an unintentional assault on the public weal.”
    I read the quoted article.


    1. I did miss that phrase, Andrea. But, again, the entire article is not aimed at overweight women. It is talking about immodest dress for women of any size and shape. I have to say I have seen many women walking around with “muffin tops” sticking out of low-slung jeans and crop-tops. It used to be that only the really trim and slim “cheerleader” types dared to bare, but as our culture has become more and more desensitized to immodesty, everyone has felt free to “let it all hang out.” I am nowhere close to a size 6, and I’ve had ten children, so I love the fact that modest clothing covers appropriately and draws attention to what I want people to look at–my face! The best antidote to an imperfect figure (and most of us have those) is dressing beautifully instead of provocatively. Why would we want to draw attention to the very things we are self-conscious about? I have several lovely ladies here in Kenya who are modeling dresses for me for my newest pattern designs. I deliberately sought out a wide range of sizes so I could show how the styles look on all types. The model who is the most gorgeous and gets the nicest compliments is a size 22. Dressed modestly, femininely, and appropriately, all you notice is her radiant face and her gorgeous smile. The dress is simply a lovely frame for her beautiful personality. Shouldn’t that be our aim, no matter what our size?


  6. I like Pr. Wilson’s discussion of why insecurity is a sin and part of the fallen world and how “Insecurity creates wannabees.” I couldn’t agree more. Insecurity makes us want to fit in with the world. I think it makes sense then that insecurity is at odds with modesty. At its heart, modesty is being comfortable enough in one’s own skin that one need not seek the approval of others for validation. Modesty doesn’t seek out attention, and it doesn’t compete with anyone. Truly modest people are well equipped to serve others. Insecurity, on the other hand, is overly concerned with thoughts and feelings (introspective) and is at its heart driven by pride. And pride leads to all kinds of ostentatious displays.

    However, I cringe at Pr. Wilson’s statement, “There also appears to be an inverse relationship between the class of the person and how many square feet are covered by the tattoo.” I realize we humans divide ourselves into “classes” based on a myriad of materialist things, but I believe God does not. Those tattooed class of people are exactly who Jesus would join for dinner tonight.


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