In my last post, I talked about body image and the emphasis we place on our level of fitness or dress size. If you haven't read it, do! Then come back here to continue the discussion!
Body image transitions readily into modesty. We've heard all the arguments about self-respect, respect for others and the fact that we are sexual beings and must be careful how we present ourselves to our fellow sexual beings.
The arguments on the other end often address the fact that men are fully capable of controlling themselves and aren't rapists by nature, so women should be able to dress how they like without fear of molestation by men, or other women.
I recently opined, "In a perfect world, women would be able to walk around naked and not worry about men attacking them. But... we aren't in a perfect world, so we should behave accordingly."
I read a blog the other day entitled Being Sexy by babymakingbybecky. In her examination of modesty, she addressed the popular idea that women are being sexualized by men and by society in general. She made a wonderfully astute point that women, when they dress immodestly in an attempt to be sexy, are sexualizing themselves!
I had not consciously thought of it in that way and it was an eye-opening viewpoint. We all want to be attractive and feel good about how we appear, of course, but sexy is not the same thing as beautiful. We do not have to show excessive amounts of skin, wear clothing that looks like it was painted on, or put our gender-defining features out on casual display in order to be desirable.
When my husband and I were dating and just beginning to talk about the possibility of marriage, one of the things he used to say has stuck with me. When talking about the attractiveness of a woman, he often said that she was "fair to look upon", taking a page from the Old Testament references to beautiful women, typically virgins.
He could have used more common language and I wouldn't have batted an eye, but his desire to be respectful while appreciating the loveliness of a woman made me respect him more. We all want to look at beautiful things and that should include ourselves and our fellow human beings.
On the flip-side, we don't have to wear yards of fabric from our chin to our wrists and ankles in order to be modest. Modesty does not equate to shapelessness.
When I looked up the definition of modesty, I was interested in the fact that modesty in regards to decency in dress was only one of many definitions. Most of the definitions pertained to behavior and lifestyle. Words like "moderate", "unpretentious", and "humility" jumped out at me.
I think that more than just the cut of the clothing was meant when we were instructed to be modest in our dress. Beauty, free of ostentatiousness, flamboyance and gaudiness was fully intended, in my opinion.
I liked what Becky said in her blog about modesty: "The purpose of modesty is not to make us unattractive to ourselves or each other. It's to show respect for our bodies, each other, and sex. Because sex deserves a some respect."
We'll talk about sex in just a bit... Oooh, you don't say!
So, why do women sexualize themselves?
We can talk about society and imagery in the media, but at the heart of it all is a misunderstanding of what gives us value or worth.
Women (and men) want to feel that they matter. If we matter, we are worth something.
But, we grasp at what we can see, and what we can see is physical. So, our translation becomes, if others like what they see and I like what I see, I must matter. I must be worth something.
The problem with that is that what we see isn't all or even very close to everything there is to us. There is so much more. I'm not just talking about personality, either. There's more to us than that, too.
We miss the mark entirely when we base our value on how desirable we are to the people around us. Our value is determined by one person and that assessment is the only one that should matter. If you think I'm about to say "yourself", you'd be off-base again... it's a popular notion, but flawed because we are imperfect and look at ourselves with an imperfect and overly-critical eye without the vision of our true potential...
Our potential, value and true worth can be seen and understood by a loving Heavenly Father who only wants to bless us and help us reach the goals that He knows will bring us real, lasting joy. He does this because he loves us without reservation. He can and does love us through everything and wants us to discover our divine nature so that we can achieve our purposes in this mortal life.
Another related blog I read recently came in the wake of the Miley Cyrus' VMA performance.
Yeah, I watched the clip when I heard about it.
Yeah, I was shocked.
I thought at first that it was meant to be a joke. Some sort of ironic commentary on sex in the media.
After a couple of minutes, however, I realized that it wasn't a joke and, for some inexplicable reason, was meant to be exactly what it appeared to be: A shocking, embarrassingly explicit, sexually-charged display.
I could feel through the screen Miley's strained, self-conscious desire to be seen as an adult. I felt really sorry for her.
Shydandelion's blog entitled A Frank Discussion delves into how sex has been cheapened and marginalized by both "Hollywood-types" and the religious alike.
She essentially says, and I agree, that Hollywood has turned sex into a tawdry, shabby shadow of what it was meant to be. They've taken the low road and made sex a public display instead of a private, sacred time to be shared between a husband and wife who cherish each other.
The religious (not all religious people, just so we're clear), too, have undervalued sex and proclaimed it to be a necessary evil. In their minds, we have been commanded to multiply and replenish the Earth, but to even think about enjoying it is repentance-worthy.
Sex is a gift from God and should be treated with the same respect that our bodies deserve. While I occasionally get the "teehee"s when it comes to talking about sex, I really do look at it as a wonderfully enriching experience with my spouse. That's why I don't mind talking about it and I take the conversation very seriously.
(Note: I acknowledge that sex is a sensitive topic for many people, especially those who have suffered abuse. What I say here may not be something that can be readily applied in their lives. These are merely my non-professional feelings and opinions.
Oh, and if sex is painful for you, please see a doctor. It really shouldn't be and a doctor may be able to help.)
I've talked with quite a few women about sex and the opinions expressed by them range anywhere from a healthy enjoyment, to a reluctant acknowledgement of its benefits, to indifference and even into a true dislike. I'm always a bit sad for the women who say they don't like it because I know it can be so much more than that necessary unpleasantness. And it's not just for men to enjoy. I find that line of thinking condescending and ignorant.
Sex is awesome! Yeah, I said it.
Anything created by God couldn't be anything less.
But, since it was created by God, we can't treat it lightly or casually.
What's this? Have I gone off topic? How does my soap-box on sex relate to a woman's (or a man's) worth?
I think some people feel that their sexuality is what makes them valuable.. Do you or don't you? How many conquests? How many times? How good was it? How good are you?
The reasoning seems to follow the same line of thinking as the way we dress. If we can attract someone who wants to be with us intimately, we are valuable. If we can attract MANY people who want to be with us intimately, we must be MORE valuable. If I attract more people than her/him, I have greater value than they do.
Sex isn't a bargaining chip or a way to measure the value of a person. Sex is an intimate sharing of ourselves that isn't meant to be casually given away.
If you were given a beautiful gift by someone who loved you very much, a precious, priceless gift that was made individually for you, would you casually allow others to take it, mistreat it or flaunt it as their own prize to their friends? Would you tell your friends that the gift you were given was worthless? Would you hide that gift in your darkest closet as if it was shameful?
When we treat sex casually or with disrespect, we are doing just that. God gave us a precious gift that was meant to be shared with someone who would respect and value it just as much as you, the recipient, and God, that loving Bestower of the gift, does. When someone respects their intimacy with you, you can be sure they value you as a person. When you respect the precious gift of intimacy and procreation that God has given you, you can be sure that you will value yourself.
And! When you respect and value these gifts without measure or price, you will show your Heavenly Father that you love and appreciate Him and will do all you can to follow and serve Him!
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, just this morning in General Conference stated that our first priority is to serve God. When we do that, all other things will follow.
Our bodies are powerful, beautiful gifts, capable of so much that is good, pure and Eternally gratifying. If we can remember why our Heavenly Father gave these things to us, I believe we will find peace and satisfaction in our bodies, our relationships and the knowledge that the most perfect being in existence loves us more than we can imagine! We have worth because Heavenly Father loves us!
We will be getting to the Priesthood for Women topic soon, but next we need to talk about: Having Questions about our Beliefs.