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Drawing a Hemline: Sexual Modesty and the Pursuit of Wisdom
Inside Catholic ^ | June 30, 2009 | Benjamin D. Wiker

Posted on 07/01/2009 10:48:42 AM PDT by NYer

 
I have a suggestion for those in academia who are concerned that women be treated as intellectual equals: Try sexual modesty. Before the lynching party arrives, I hope I will have time to explain.
 
I have taught at several colleges, one of which has a dress code. To many, a dress code seems old-fashioned at best, a puri-tyrannical breach of our right to freedom of speech at worst. (It should worry us that clothing is considered speech.) But allow me to present two examples -- male and female -- that illustrate how sexual modesty is related to the pursuit of wisdom.
 
 
Immodest Examples
 
A few years back, in California, there was a young man at a state university who insisted on attending all his classes wearing only a backpack. (If only he had worn a fanny pack!) He was nicknamed "the naked guy." The presence of this statuesque youth was disturbing. He was not rude, loud, or aggressive. The difficulty? He was sans-culottes, and then some.
 
The only amusing thing in this matter was that the university could not come up with a violation to pin on him -- let alone a place to pin it. After several weeks of cheek-by-jowl conferencing, he was slapped with a sexual harassment charge, even though his mode of "harassing" was entirely passive, and given the boot (and, we hope, a traveling suit as well).
 
Why could the university not simply invoke the obvious: young men have to wear clothes in public because human beings, especially young women, have trouble concentrating sitting next to a naked man? Why could the university not admit that sexual immodesty directly disturbs the intellectual life? Why could it not draw a hemline and say, "Thus far and no farther"?
 
Because it had, like so many other academic institutions, abandoned any restrictions in regard to how students must dress. Having embraced both the slovenly and near-naked, the university could not find a way to regulate the naked.
 
Another example is from when I was teaching at a college without a dress code. I was having students give presentations on the Roman Empire. In one group, a young lady was playing the part of Julius Caesar -- do not ask why. She wore a miniskirt made out of less material than a standard eyepatch. Needless to say, the young men were not engrossed in her intellectual presentation. I doubt they heard anything she had to say. Her immodesty absorbed their entire attention. As far as they were concerned, she was all body and no mind.
 
Those who defend such immodesty usually argue that a young woman has a right to wear whatever she wants, and the young men have no right to ogle her. On the contrary: It is not a question of rights but rather of nature. Just as it was natural for young women to be flustered in the presence of "the naked guy," so it was natural for young men to be flustered oglers in the presence of a near-naked young woman. If he was sexually harassing the women, was she sexually harassing the men?
 
 
The Natural and the Conventional
 
Those who defend such immodesty do not, of course, call it immodest. A little etymology will reveal why. The Latin modestus means "moderate," as in "keeping within bounds," and it is derived from modus, which means "a boundary or standard of measure." Those who have rejected dress codes have done so because they have rejected any boundaries, any standards of measure in regard to sexuality. Standards of dress and sexuality stand and fall together.
 
The principle normally invoked by the intelligentsia for the standardless standard is that clothing is merely conventional, whereas (we assume) skin is natural. The amount and style of clothing differs so drastically from Aborigines to Elizabethans to Americans that any standard is arbitrary. So the argument goes.
 
But this argument is misaimed. The focus must shift from the clothes, which do vary, to the human beings underneath, who in their essentials do not. Unless we are entirely Gnostic -- and I believe that many trendy moderns are, at heart, ancient Gnostics -- we must recognize that sexual passion is a human given. It is natural and not conventional.
 
Further, sexual passion is like any other passion -- anger, joy, hunger: it is not continually "on" but becomes aroused. Hence, the barbarous but accurate phrase, "He [or she] turns me on!" This sudden flutter and consequent flow of hormones is natural.
 
But we are not defined solely by our capacity to feel and express passions. Human beings are, by nature, able to think deeply and come to profound insights. As the politically correct crowd rightly points out, the intellect is not the sole possession of white, western males but is a human endowment, shared universally.
 
 
Passion Cancels Intellect
 
And now the pinch. Science may be brought in to confirm the following, but that would only be to vindicate what almost all of us know by experience. Thinking deeply (which is natural) and sexual desire (which is natural) cancel each other out (which is natural). Our intellectual and sexual attentions are inversely proportional.
 
This relationship is not confined to sexual passion. Such distraction of the intellect occurs with most other passions as well: "I was so hungry, I couldn't think"; "I was so angry that I wasn't able to concentrate"; "He was so sad that his eyes were just running over the page -- he may as well not have 'read' the book."
 
Imagine trying to conduct a seminar an hour past lunch when nobody has eaten since breakfast, when all of the participants are as mad as hornets, or when all are mourning over a fellow student's recent death. Can we admit that these other passions disturb our ability to think but exclude sexual passion? If anything, sexual passion is a stronger distraction. Thus, the more immodesty, the more distraction.
 
Furthermore, admit it or not, sexual immodesty not only distracts, it reduces. It reduces especially the young women to something less than they really are. Regardless of the current attempt to equalize sexuality, it has always been the case that the female's sexuality garners a stronger attraction. A man half-dressed in class will appear ridiculous to the women and disgusting to the men, an embarrassment rather than a source of temptation. But a woman immodestly dressed throws the young men into dry-mouthed confusion. If it were any other way, then selling-by-sex industries, from prostitution to advertising, would not be almost completely dominated by the immodesty of women directed to the insatiable sexual appetites of men.
 
It is this simple: We are rational animals. The rational aspect of our being distinguishes us as human beings. The animal aspect of our being is the source of the sexual distinction between male and female. The university purports to teach our rational nature, that which least distinguishes male and female, not our animal nature, which is the source of the sexual distinction and the passion of sex. It follows that immodesty exaggerates sexual difference, while modesty allows for the dominance of the intellect where there is the least difference between male and female.
 
 
Feminism's Consequence
 
This is not an abstract argument. I have seen the difference it makes when the differences between male and female are hidden, so to speak, by the drape of modesty (i.e., because of a dress code). When a young woman would go up to the board to demonstrate a proposition from Euclid, all eyes were focused on the board, and all minds were attentive to her words. If she were wearing a miniskirt, for those who were watching, her natural intellectual powers would have been canceled by her natural sexual powers.
 
In this regard, and many others, modernity has things backwards. It tries to make sexuality common by making it public and rationality private by making it relative and particular. Thus, we are invited to display our sexuality to everyone (regardless of gender) as if it had, in its origin and goal, the universality of intellectual pursuits, and we are admonished to divide our rationality as if it had the particularities of the body, such as gender. Hence, women's studies are declared an intellectual province, while philosophy is taken to be provincial.
 
But against this, modesty in academia allows for the pursuit of wisdom because it does not confuse the universality and commonness of intellectual things with the particularity and exclusiveness of bodily things. The intellect naturally tries to embrace the whole of reality; the body naturally tries to embrace another particular body. The mind is open for the sake of uncovering truth; the body is covered for the sake of opening up to another body exclusively, that of one's spouse.
 
This is not a Manichaean position. Modesty acknowledges the body. It does not hide the body because it is ashamed of it; it veils the body because its sexual power is not an appropriate object of public display. Is that not what feminists have been telling us, that they do not want women to be sex objects? They have been right to say so and should follow through with the natural consequence: modesty.
 
In regard to academia, the need for sexual modesty is a recognition of what should be an obvious, natural truth. Neither males nor females should be distracted from the primary purpose of the university: the formation of the intellect. Whether it be from the fall or from the inherent powerful nature of sexual desire (or both), the presence of sexual passion in the classroom displaces intellectual passion. Institutions owe it to their students to minimize such distractions. Even on the mean level of economics, students are paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend such institutions of higher learning. Why pay for sexual passion? The culture is already saturated with it, and most of it is free. If the university is "selling" itself as offering what cannot be gotten elsewhere, then its focus should be intellectual, not sexual.


TOPICS: Moral Issues; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: attire; dress; dresscodes; education; highereducation; nudity
Benjamin D. Wiker is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and the author of the new book, The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin (Regnery, 2009).
1 posted on 07/01/2009 10:48:43 AM PDT by NYer
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To: Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

Ping!


2 posted on 07/01/2009 10:49:21 AM PDT by NYer ("Run from places of sin as from a plague." - St. John Climacus)
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To: NYer

This thread is worthless without pics.


3 posted on 07/01/2009 10:54:56 AM PDT by rednesss (fascism is the union,marriage,merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power)
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To: NYer

Sorry, but women manipulate with sex and most men wouldn’t have it any other way!


4 posted on 07/01/2009 10:57:46 AM PDT by divine_moment_of_facts (There is no Far Right.. There is only Far Left.)
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To: NYer
Personally, the shorter the skirt, the less attractive and more slutty is my take.

Nothing more alluring than a woman in a long, narrow skirt. Morticia Addams had it goin’ on.

5 posted on 07/01/2009 10:59:10 AM PDT by South Hawthorne (In Memory of my Dear Friend Henry Lee II)
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To: NYer

A good idea.


6 posted on 07/01/2009 10:59:19 AM PDT by Maelstorm (Sarah Palin 2012 (Who else in the GOP is man enough?))
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To: NYer
Uh oh, The Lies of Charles Darwin? This guy is gonna get flamed to no end.
7 posted on 07/01/2009 11:00:11 AM PDT by wastedyears (The Tree is thirsty and the hogs are hungry.)
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To: rednesss
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
8 posted on 07/01/2009 11:00:20 AM PDT by divine_moment_of_facts (There is no Far Right.. There is only Far Left.)
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To: rednesss

I’ll pass on the pics, especially of the naked guy.


9 posted on 07/01/2009 11:00:39 AM PDT by Ingtar (Americans have truly let America down. A sad day.)
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To: rednesss
This thread is worthless without pics.

She wore a miniskirt made out of less material than a standard eyepatch.

Exactly, except I'm afraid she might be very guilty.

10 posted on 07/01/2009 11:01:45 AM PDT by OCC
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To: NYer

“Immodest” dress magnifies womens’ sexual power over men. But only at the expense of everything else. While it is possible for a provocatively clad woman to be taken seriously intellectually, it is unlikely. Men don’t have a lot of control over what arouses them. Women have considerable control over what they wear. I think a reasonable accommodation by both parties would go far toward lessening the tension between the genders.

But I don’t think feminists or scantily clad women are interested in LESSENING the tension. For completely different reasons, both groups benefit then the tension is high.


11 posted on 07/01/2009 11:02:56 AM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: NYer
Vinyl Itty Bitty Micro Mini (38-401), RRP $33. Pictures, Images and Photos
12 posted on 07/01/2009 11:04:50 AM PDT by Snickering Hound
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To: IronJack

You darn sure better have control when a girl is dancing with you and her boyfriend is within beer throwing range. And she doesn’t make it any easier for you either.


13 posted on 07/01/2009 11:05:16 AM PDT by wastedyears (The Tree is thirsty and the hogs are hungry.)
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To: Snickering Hound

So not guilty


14 posted on 07/01/2009 11:05:37 AM PDT by wastedyears (The Tree is thirsty and the hogs are hungry.)
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To: NYer

Modesty ping.


15 posted on 07/01/2009 11:06:30 AM PDT by Westbrook (Having more children does not divide your love, it multiplies it.)
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To: NYer

I read an article in the UK Daily Mail of a woman who decide to be chaste and she noticed the men she was dating and meeting treated her a lot nicer than when she was sleeping around.
Rather unfortunate modern society seemed to forget what worked for a a millenia in Western society.


16 posted on 07/01/2009 11:07:41 AM PDT by C19fan
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To: rednesss
Your wish...
17 posted on 07/01/2009 11:07:57 AM PDT by wolfcreek (KMTEXASA!)
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To: NYer

I recall once while grocery shopping I came around the corner of an aisle and there was a very very (I said “very”, right?) large woman with the biggest cleavage I have seen in my life, and her shirt was cut about ten inches lower than any sense of decency would dictate. It was one of those “whoops, pardon me” moments that we have all had untold number of times in the supermarket when rounding a corner, except that in this case she and her girl friend insinuated that I was a perv for looking at her cleavage. I said “if you don’t want people looking at it then don’t hang it out there like a plumber’s butt crack!”

She was sooooo insulted.... and I enjoyed every bit of it.


18 posted on 07/01/2009 11:11:52 AM PDT by MarineBrat (The New York Times is a Communist Kamikaze.)
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To: MarineBrat

Like Jen Tilly playing Poker After Dark!

Woof!


19 posted on 07/01/2009 11:18:46 AM PDT by charmedone
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To: charmedone

20 posted on 07/01/2009 11:28:30 AM PDT by Jewbacca (The residents of Iroquois territory may not determine whether Jews may live in Jerusalem.)
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To: NYer
Dr. Wiker would be gratified by the policy at my university. Employees are prohibited from wearing anything considered revealing, no denim, no shorts, nothing with writing on it, and nothing that you would wear to a casual event like a sports event, with an exception for game days, when team shirts are allowed. Revealing clothing is considered actionable sexual harassment if it exposes curvature of the breasts, or the hem is so high that the wearer's hand, placed at the top of the knee sideways, doesn't reach up to the bottom of the hem. Unfortunately, they don't feel they have legal means to enforce on students, but it makes for a much more professional environment. To be honest, the occasional offender probably appreciates being taken aside and told, privately, to clean up their act.
21 posted on 07/01/2009 11:28:55 AM PDT by Missouri gal
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To: OCC
I'm afraid she might be very guilty.

You must be brave to judge the evidence. Remember - there is the presumption of innocence...

22 posted on 07/01/2009 11:29:55 AM PDT by frithguild (Can I drill your head now?)
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To: frithguild

23 posted on 07/01/2009 11:32:52 AM PDT by Jewbacca (The residents of Iroquois territory may not determine whether Jews may live in Jerusalem.)
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To: Jewbacca

Not guilty!


24 posted on 07/01/2009 11:33:42 AM PDT by frithguild (Can I drill your head now?)
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To: NYer

The Naked Guy from Berkeley that the article talks about was a mentally ill nutcase who killed himself...

Ed


25 posted on 07/01/2009 11:50:19 AM PDT by Sir_Ed
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To: NYer

Virtues, virtues, virtues.

Modesty is one of them.


26 posted on 07/01/2009 1:39:27 PM PDT by Salvation (With God all things are possible.)
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To: NYer

It is so silly for women to dress like sluts and then expect to be taken seriously and considered equals.


27 posted on 07/01/2009 1:42:11 PM PDT by MEGoody (Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.)
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To: Salvation

“Virtues, virtues, virtues.

Modesty is one of them.”

Mystery, though not a virtue per se, is also enticing.


28 posted on 07/01/2009 1:42:37 PM PDT by combat_boots (The Lion of Judah cometh. Hallelujah. Gloria Patri, Fili et Spiritus Sancti.)
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To: MarineBrat
I said “if you don’t want people looking at it then don’t hang it out there like a plumber’s butt crack!”

I'll have to remember this line next time some lactating nazi gets upset because someone stares at her when she flops it out to breastfeed her baby.

29 posted on 07/01/2009 1:44:50 PM PDT by MEGoody (Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.)
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To: Salvation

for those interested in reading here’s a nice article I found online : “You Are What You Wear” from Judaism Online : http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/modesty


30 posted on 07/01/2009 3:05:52 PM PDT by MissDairyGoodnessVT (Mac Conchradha - "Skeagh mac en chroe"- Skaghvicencrowe)
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To: Jewbacca

Nice legs!


31 posted on 07/01/2009 3:15:01 PM PDT by Marysecretary (GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!)
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To: MEGoody

Exactly.


32 posted on 07/01/2009 3:15:41 PM PDT by Marysecretary (GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!)
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To: rednesss
I thought it was all because of Global Warming:


33 posted on 07/01/2009 3:18:15 PM PDT by dfwgator
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To: Marysecretary

I shaved for the picture.


34 posted on 07/01/2009 3:18:50 PM PDT by Jewbacca (The residents of Iroquois territory may not determine whether Jews may live in Jerusalem.)
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To: Jewbacca

LOL. Good one.


35 posted on 07/01/2009 3:34:56 PM PDT by Marysecretary (GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!)
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To: Jewbacca
God knew what he was doing when he created woman.

The "Go forth and multiply" thingy wouldn't have worked as well.

Great legs.

36 posted on 07/01/2009 6:09:40 PM PDT by FatherofFive (Islam is an EVIL like no other, and must be ERADICATED. Barack OBORTION is a close second.)
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To: NYer
A man half-dressed in class will appear ridiculous to the women and disgusting to the men, an embarrassment rather than a source of temptation. But a woman immodestly dressed throws the young men into dry-mouthed confusion. If it were any other way, then selling-by-sex industries, from prostitution to advertising, would not be almost completely dominated by the immodesty of women directed to the insatiable sexual appetites of men.

Benjamin D. Wiker 2009

Among women the nudity kills natural modesty; it takes from men their respect for women, and thereby destroys the prerequisite for any genuine culture. It is therefore expected of all police authorities that, in support of the spiritual powers developed through the national movement, they take all police measures to destroy the so-called nude culture.

Hermann Göring: 1933 Nazi edict

37 posted on 07/01/2009 6:35:14 PM PDT by Inappropriate Laughter
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To: NYer

There are always two problems with these ‘call to modesty’ things:

1. Modesty is, to some degree, a social construct. For instance, I’m wearing pants right now (thank goodness). In Victorian England, I would have been considered a shamless hussy for wearing something that so revealed the shape of my lovely legs. Now, I’m just considered a chick in pants, ie. nothing to stare at. While there are some near-universally applicable standards, the actual definition and ‘limits’ of modesty are a bit nebulous.

2. If you’re female and reasonably attractive (or in some places, just female), you’re going to get stared at by the menfolk. No amount of sackcloth or garbage bags will completely disguise that you are A. female, and B. attractive. Unless you decide to wear a burqua, men are going to be sexually attracted to you, and probably not listen to a thing you say. If you wear a burqua, they’ll wonder why you’re walking around in a tablecloth.

I think it would really help the modesty movement’s cause if they stressed ‘appropriateness’ more. They get too carried away with the ‘thou shalt hide thy body from the eyes of men’ angle at the expense of the ‘that minidress is not a good choice for work because you are there to work and not flaunt your stuff’ angle.


38 posted on 07/01/2009 6:42:26 PM PDT by CatInTheBox (Protractor-Wielding Love Queen)
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To: CatInTheBox
"men are going to be sexually attracted to you, and probably not listen to a thing you say."

Huh, what were you saying?? I dropped my pencil, can you pick it up for me?? :)

39 posted on 07/02/2009 1:11:30 PM PDT by rednesss (fascism is the union,marriage,merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power)
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To: Inappropriate Laughter

Oh give me a break! So anyone who has standards are Nazis?


40 posted on 07/16/2009 9:50:59 AM PDT by Pyro7480 ("If you know how not to pray, take Joseph as your master, and you will not go astray." - St. Teresa)
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