Reading the writing of Catholic speakers like Matt Fradd…
…and seeing this picture…
…a Star Wars: The Old Republic version of one of my favorite fictional characters, Cortana, from the video game series Halo, got me asking myself:
When is wearing nothing more modest than wearing something?
This is why I’m asking such a question:
A woman’s perceived lack of modesty in dress has been used as justification for letting rapists go free.
“The person who supposedly counseled me told me if I reported a person like that to the police, I was damaging the cause of Christ, and I would be responsible for the abuser going to hell,” another victim reported.
It’s not surprising that this would happen in conservative Christian environments. Fundamentalist Christianity is positively obsessed with the idea that female sexuality is the source most of the nation’s woes, and that the world is going to hell because women dress immodestly…
~ How Christian conservatives blame victims and let rapists walk free
The Catholic Church says this about modesty:
The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.
~ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2524
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 [i.e., lust], as a result of which the person is put in the position of an object for enjoyment.
~ Pope John Paul II
To the Catholic Church, nakedness is only immodest when the intent of the person who is naked is to cause others to lust.
The sight of the opposite sex’s (or same sex’s) nudity gets one’s mind and body going in all sorts of directions. There is nothing sinful about this. Such a reaction to nudity — for example: having erotic thoughts upon seeing a person’s exposed front — is perfectly natural.
What is unnatural (i.e., lustful) is making the choice to see the person who is naked as a means of attaining sexual pleasure, and not seeing such a person as the human being they are: continuing to think those initial erotic thoughts, letting pleasure eclipse the naked person’s humanity.
Sex is supposed to be an act of love.
Can you really say you love a person if you see them as nothing more than what’s between their legs?
Dress can…help to accentuate the sexual values in different ways…
What is…immodest in dress is that which frankly contributes to the deliberate displacement of the true value of the person by sexual values…
~ Pope John Paul II
i.e.: To the Catholic Church, “immodest clothing” is clothing that takes attention away from one’s humanity and draws that attention to one’s sexuality.*
When it comes to determining the modesty or immodesty of someone’s clothes or lack of clothes, a person should not (implicitly or explicitly) say to others:
“You’re not covering certain body parts. You’re being immodest and are asking for it.
You’re covering certain body parts. You’re not being immodest and aren’t asking for it.”
In order to end the problem of victim-blaming, one thing that must be understood by conservative Christians is that nakedness doesn’t automatically mean a person is being immodest, and being clothed doesn’t automatically mean a person is being modest.
*Related reading: Need Evidence That Good Will Triumph Over Evil? Look At A Woman’s Butt