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.
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.