The Modesty Survey

The Modesty Survey

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This may sound odd, but one of the first things I noticed about my wife when we first met was her calves. That's right, I was attracted to her calves. And the reason I'm bringing this up is because "Do bare calves cause men to stumble?" is one of the many questions raised in The Rebelution's peer survey on modesty.

The Harris brothers began gathering answers to their online questionnaire this January and over 1,600 Christian guys responded. They include a disclaimer that's it's not scientific, but it's not meant to be. What it is is an honest look at what young women do and wear that may prove to be stumbling blocks for young men, all men.

The survey covers swimsuits, skirts, jeans and a woman's posture and movement, and much more. You can filter the results based on age and schooling -- whether public, private or home schooled. And there's a petition guys can sign affirming the biblical truths on modesty "to my sisters in Christ."

It's definitely worth a look. I'm not sure I've seen a more comprehensive and revealing look into the minds of men on the issue of female modesty.

Turns out, bare calves are not a stumbling block for guys.

HT: Humble Beginnings

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  • Comment by  Jburke:

    I have followed the progress of the modesty survey for a few weeks now and was excited to look at the results.  

    Honestly, it was so convicting that I could hardly make it through each category. I have always felt like I dress modestly, but I don't think some of my wardrobe choices were made with the intent of being modest.  The survey revealed to me that it must be my purpose in dressing to be modest, rather than fashionable and cute. As a wife, a mother to a son, and a sister to brothers, I pray that my clothing will be honorable to the men in my life and the strangers with whom I interact.

    And I truly believe that the churches where I have been involved are either not being honest about the way girls dress or have chosen not to address it.      

  • Comment by  Becca:

    I am certainly in favor of respectable and modest dress, but I am not a fan of the Modesty Survey.

    Instead of emphasizing the responsibility both men and women have to show each other respect in how they think of and treat their own and each others' bodies, the survey causes both men and women to think unhealthily of each other.

    Asking men to ponder whether the minutia of women's dress and behavior provokes lust seems like a good way to encourage lustful and objectifying thoughts. I wonder how many of the younger boys who took the survey had never before considered the sexual possibilities of certain garments or behavior and ended up thinking something like "hmm... high heeled black boots... interesting..." Furthermore, the whole thing (unintentionally) encourages men and boys to place the responsibility for their lustful thoughts on women and girls rather than on themselves -- which is not very likely to lead to any sort of edification!

    For girls, the results of the survey are perplexing. As Motte's example shows, little things like calves that might be a problem for some guys aren't at all for others. Attractiveness -- and even sexiness -- are pretty subjective qualities. So while the survey does provide an interesting look at the range of things that make different male minds wander, it's not very helpful. Ultimately, all it does, as one girl over at the forums on the Harris brothers' website put it, is convey varying degrees of condemnation for any clothing or behavior choice a girl might make, "because just averaging what all the answers were, NO MATTER what we WEAR or DO can cause a guy to stumble. Where is the hope or light at the end of the tunnel in that?"

    The logo of the survey -- a veiled woman with sexy, alluring eyes -- epitomizes the misfocus of the project. Like the logo, the whole thing seems to fetishize modesty, focusing too much inappropriate attention on the physical, even when the physical can't be seen.

    The focus should be on the internal, not on the external -- the mind, not on the body.

    A much better way of encouraging modesty and respect on both sides of the gender line would have been to teach the root issues rather than the superficial ones. The problem isn't in the clothes or the behavior themselves -- it's in the minds, intentions, and perceptions of the men and women wearing and observing them.

    One of the great weaknesses of the human mind is that no two of us can ever know truly and completely what the other is thinking, even through a survey. Men need to take responsibility for their perceptions and women need to take responsibility for their intentions (and visa versa). That is the best and most meaningful thing we can do.

  • Comment by  LeahT:

    Very interesting in general.  

    Actually, a better description would be both encouraging and convicting.  

    Encouraging because I'm always encouraged to read responses and comments from young Christian men who are honest and enthusiastic about living a Christ centered life, and convicting because, as a girl, I see areas where I can improve and where I should, perhaps, be more than a passive influence towards the young girls I'm around.

  • Comment by  PP:

    Although I agree that one should dress appropriately, I think that it applies to both women as well as men.  

    A low halter top is not appropriate for a young woman, but neither is a tank top, overly baggy jeans and a backwards baseball cap on a young man.  

    Modesty should not be entirely the responsibility of the woman.  Perhaps they should create a survey for young women to answer?

  • Comment by  Leah:

    I really liked the survey, very interesting. The only issue that came to my mind was in the guy's text responses at the end. So many said that it's such a help when girls dress modestly, that while we might not know it, they're truly grateful. Well, maybe they should start letting us know it? Because it's not often the modestly dressed girls who get the attention. While I wouldn't say I have really immodest clothes, I know I have chosen clothes in the past with the thought that it would get guys' attention. I'm not saying it's right, but if the guys think they could use some help from girls in this area, maybe they could start encouraging us in that direction.

    (Which, fortunately, my boyfriend is good at.)

  • Comment by  Ame:

    I am SO thankful to see this survey. I teach my girls what is appropriate and not appropriate and why, but I am amazed at how I see women my age (42 and up) dress and how they allow their daughters to dress. Further, I have been stunned that dad's don't choose to have more influence on the way their daughter's dress. I've pondered this for quite sometime and have created some hypotheses.

    After reading the book, For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn ( I believe that women don't get it and men don't get that women don't get it.

    I also believe that when society took sex out of the marriage bedroom, they also took the "dress" out of the marriage bedroom. "Laungerie-style" is now commonly used to describe women's clothing.

    Women are very competitive with each other, and out-dressing each other is a huge form of competition.

    Women dress for other women as much as for men. We LOVE to hear, "Ohhh, how cute! how sexy! how awesome you look! i love your belt! what a great top! love those pants! where did you get that?!"

    We love the attention of men, but we have mislead our children and others - our desire and ability to be seductive in every way we present ourselves is good when used in the marriage bedroom. It is a part of the love that is not to be awaken until its time as referred to in The Song of Solomon. And once married, as long as it is acceptable to both the husband and wife, it is good IN the privacy of their marriage.

    I've heard that some dad's don't want to always be the "bad guy" when coming down on how their teenage daughters dress.

    I have found that the way sex is talked about among singles differs a lot from the way it is talked about among married couples. I had a male SS teacher in a singles class say, "I had to stop watching that show because it's more about sex than other content." I have never heard that said in a married class -- and I think that is because the wife would be all over the husband -- "what do you mean? do you think about sex with other women? etc etc" or, she would jam him with her elbow. So, I'm guessing that if a dad were to say to his daughter, "That is not acceptable to wear because it will cause men to think inappropriate thoughts about your body, will cause them to imagine you without clothing, and/or will cause them to fantasize about you," that his wife would then ask HIM if the way others dressed resulted in the same with him. If this is not open in their marriage (and it is in few that I know of) then this can become a HUGE issue -- and one, quite fankly, the wife will probably nag him about.

    Those wives whose husbands do have wandering eyes feel like they need to compete for his attention. So they dress as extreme as they will allow themselves to try to capture the attention of their own husband. I've seen this over and over and over again -- and all within the church.

    Some of these concepts are may be difficult for young people to understand because their generation is much more "open" about stuff. But older generations are not so open.

    I sat in a married SS class with a friend -- she and her husband have four children and are raising them VERY conservatively -- they don't even watch any TV unless it's a movie -- and then that's a big deal. One of the co-teacher's wives was wearing a tube top with a little halter spaghetti strap, and I was honestly shocked. I turned to my friend and said, "That bothers me; does it bother you?" And she looked perplexed and said, "No. I wouldn't wear it, but it doesn't bother me." I was shocked.

    It seems to me there is a protected ignorance within the church. Church leaders, most of whom are men, are not ignorant as to the effects of the way the women in church dress, but they say and do nothing. I don't know what it would take to wake up the church, but I think they certainly need to be woken up to this truth about the way women dress and the way they allow their daughters to dress.

  • Comment by  Ame:

    btw - I have also often heard women say, "Men need to take responsibility, too," and "Men need to dress appropriately, too."

    I agree.

    However, as I have pondered this, too, as a woman, as a mom of daughters, and as a child of God, I believe that we, as women, are going to be shocked when we stand face-to-face with Almighty God how much He holds us accountable for the way we present ourselves.

  • Comment by  Leah:

    Becca, I think you're giving 16 year old boys more credit than they deserve when it comes to innocence levels.

    And after all, the survey was only saying "do you find this to be a stumbling block?" It's not detailing why it would or wouldn't be.

    I was 16 only 3 years ago, and I'll bet none of the questions asked would have been new for any of my guy friends. (Except the kind of ridiculous ones like "necklaces draw too much attention to the neck"- the guys would have been like "what the? what is their problem? 'course not!")

  • Comment by  Kristy:

    I was interested to see what this survey would have to say, though to be honest I had some reservations about it from the beginning -- something along the lines of giving a bunch of hormone-driven teenage guys the authority to tell girls that something was a problem for them, and therefore the girls should do something about it.  This wasn't a problem quite to the extent I feared it would be, but I did have some issues with it (some of which I already shared on the board over there.)  What I was taught in my church growing up was that if a guy tells you that he has a problem with something you're wearing, the only correct response for you as a girl is to never wear that article again.  Well, now I've been anonymously told by a bunch of guys I'll never even meet that everything in my wardrobe causes some sort of problem for at least a handful of them -- and I dress EXTREMELY modestly (I have a whole collection of shapeless jumpers and dresses, if that's any indication!)  For example, the nude nylons vs. bare legs concern that I raised over there -- over 10% of guys surveyed said that nude nylons were a stumbling block, and over 10% also said that bare legs (regardless of dress length) were also a stumbling block.  Many girls have posted promises to go through their wardrobe and weed out the things they "shouldn't be wearing" -- and I've no doubt that some of them really needed to do this.  But I'll pose the same question over here that I posed over there -- where do we draw the line?  If 80% of guys surveyed said a particular item was a stumbling block, do we throw it out?  How about 51%?  49%?  10%?  

    If you do visit over there, be sure to visit at least some of the text responses.  They were a bit more balanced than the bar graphs would indicate.  Overall I think the Harris brothers were trying to do a good thing -- but in some instances, I think they opened up a really big can of worms, in terms of causing guys to dwell on body parts and clothing items more than they should, and in terms of causing cautious girls to become paranoid about whether they are modest at all.

  • Comment by  Eliana:

    I'm so glad Boundless included a link to this survey. I just spent several hours looking at the results. I try to dress modestly, so the survey was actually quite encouraging. I was especially encouraged by the fact that most men who responded said that they value character, intelligence, and personality over physical beauty. I was also happy to see that many of them are looking for modest wife.

  • Comment by  DoubleGG²:

    Really Interesting Dialouge....

  • Comment by  CanadianGirl:

    Becca, I think there is some validity to your points. However, I found from reading the comments from the guys that they were all very, very good about not laying the blame on girls. Over and over again they said they had to take responsibility, but that it's very helpful if girls would be careful. I have read many many articles and seen several other surveys on modesty - many of which blamed the girls -- and I thought this was very balanced.

    I personally find such surveys extremely helpful. For example, I remember being shocked to read on a survey how many guys find it distracting when there are words across a girl's shirt. It had never even crossed my mind that such a thing could cause a guy to stumble!

    In a society that has lost many values and basic standards, I think it's encouraging to hear practical ways of how we can strive for higher standards.

  • Comment by  KatrinaRoweMartin:

    You all wouldn’t know, but I was very involved with the Modesty Survey. It actually was my original idea, so I feel a responsibility to explain a few things about it, related to your concerns.

    Becca, you said that you think that the survey placed too much responsibility on the girls. The survey did not deny that the guys are responsible. If you read the comments on this question,, you will see that the guys fully admit their own responsibility in this area.

    Also Becca, while I do understand your concerns that guys would be caused to lust just from reading the survey, I do not think that was the case. Just by reading the answers, you can see that mot of the immodesty had been bothering the guys for a long time and that they were glad to finally be able to tell the girls that.

    P&P, the Rebelution is thinking of doing a survey for the girls too. The reason why we did the guy survey first was because it was in a higher demand.

    Leah, I agree with you that it would be nice if more of the guys would share their appreciation for modesty more openly. But I cannot blame them. If guys did say that they appreciate modesty more, they would have to admit their struggle with immodestly dressed girls, which can sometimes be embarrassing for them. That is why the Modesty Survey was anonymous, so that guys could admit their faults without having it come to haunt them.

    Thank you all for checking out the survey and I’m glad that most of you liked it.

    In Christ,

    Katrina Rowe

  • Comment by  Emily:

    This is awesome!  Very encouraging.  I appreciate the guys' honesty and the responsiblity that they took on for themselves.

    Even from a very young age, I was always encouraged to dress modestly.  Now, my favorite person to shop with is my younger brother (he's 22 and I'm 27).  He's very patient, encouraging and honest.  He gives great feedback on what's attractive and flattering and what's absolutely unacceptable.  One day he was at my apt after I'd received an item I ordered online.  The picture online didn't show how that it was sheer.  As soon as I pulled it from the package, he hit the ceiling and said, "send it back!"  Its great to have his friendship and encouragement.

    Its also my responsibility to help him pick appropriate clothing and hold his eyes accountable.  Sometimes this means distracting him from others around us.  There was even an instance where he had to continue to study the food on his plate at a church potluck to keep from looking at the young woman across from him.  I hope that the information shared in the modesty survey will help women at school, work and CHURCH learn what is loving and encouraging for our brothers in Christ.

  • Comment by  Leah:

    Katrina, they could just say something like "You look good in that" or "You look nice tonight".

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