What does it mean to be modest? To respect the body

Note: My thoughts on the subject of modesty are constantly in flux. This, and all my other posts about modesty which I provide links to in this post, are subject to change. If this post offends or angers you, I’m sorry. That was not my intent. Let me know by commenting and we can talk about it. Feedback in general is appreciated, too. Thank you.

OK. Modesty…

The naked human body, by itself, isn’t evil.

In Genesis, God called the naked body “very good.”*

Saint Pope John Paul II says about nudity: “Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness. Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person, when its aim is to arouse concupiscence, as a result of which the person is put in the position of an object for enjoyment.”**

As a result of this, I believe that the human body is inherently good. And I think that Original Sin — the imperfectness we’re all born with — doesn’t make the body any less good: Original Sin, I think, just means that we have to try extra hard to see people as human beings, not as body parts.

So…

What’s wrong with, say, being a nudist? Or, for women, being topless in public?***

I would say, looking at what the Bible and Pope Saint John Paul II say about the body, nothing.

Isn’t being naked in public, or not wearing certain clothes, immodest?

No.

The reason I say “No” is because I feel that if a person isn’t being naked, or if a woman isn’t wearing a top, in order to arouse or manipulate, than it’s OK. The reason I think these behaviors are OK is because, going back to what the Bible and Pope Saint John Paul II have said about the human body, the body is inherently good — there is, when it comes right down to it, no reason to cover the body.

That last sentence requires more explanation.

There are reasons to cover the body. For example: There are people out there who will take advantage of a person because they’re wearing little or no clothing. Another reason to cover the body is for sanitary reasons: The butt, penis, and vagina carry diseases. If a naked person is sitting on a bench, I’m going to think twice about sitting there. (At least, until it’s wiped down.)

That being said, I stand by what I said earlier: There is, ultimately, no reason to cover the body. Here is why:

Modesty is relative. What I mean is this: Depending on where you are in Africa, knees are considered sensual. Breasts are considered no big deal: nobody bats an eye at a woman nursing her baby in public. That’s not how it is in the U.S. Here, knees are no big deal, while women are campaigning for the right to be topless in public. Or, for another example, look at tribes in the Amazon Rain Forest. Members of tribes there wear little or no clothing, yet no one in the tribe, it seems, bats an eyelash. It is for these reasons that while I do think that clothes do play a role in being modest — for example: I consider it immodest for a person to wear clothes that draw attention to parts of their body — clothes are not the be-all and end-all.

People need to be taught they are more than their bodies. People need to be taught that their bodies aren’t something to be feared, shunned, or used as a means to an end, but understood, respected, and valued.

If people are taught this, I don’t doubt that America’s standards of what is considered modest will change. Not because we as a nation have lowered our standards of modesty, but because we understand what it means to modest: To know that the body isn’t something to fear but to understand, and to know that a person doesn’t have to be wearing certain clothes, or clothes in general, in order to demand respect and be respectful to others and to themselves.****

On a side note: I want to make this clear about my thoughts on the nudist lifestyle: I myself am not a nudist. I have no desire to be a nudist. I understand why people live that way — for example: they like the feeling of freedom that comes with not wearing clothes — but, again, it is not a lifestyle that I myself choose to take part it in. I don’t want people to be looked down on because they’re a nudist, though — I don’t want anyone to be treated as less of a human being because they choose to not wear clothes. I feel similarly about women being topless in public. Click Here for my thoughts on that subject.

To wrap this up:

The reason for this post, and the reason I write so much about the subjects of modesty and the human body, is because I feel like, nowadays, people are valued only for their bodies.***** And I want to put an end to that by showing people that the human body isn’t something to feared, shunned, or used as a means to an end, but understood, respected, and valued.

Thank you for reading.

*Genesis 1:31

**https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1320

***The reason that I’m talking about nudists and topless women is because the act of being a nudist, and the act of being topless, both involve clothes: in these cases, not wearing clothes. As a result, I think that addressing these two, for lack of a better word, behaviors, is appropriate for this post, since this post is about how the naked human body is looked at by society.

****For more on my thoughts on modesty, click HereHereHere, and Here.

*****You ever hear of the mantra “Sex Sells”? Also, just look at the multi-billion dollar porn industry. And sex slavery. I could go on. But I’ll stop now.

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