Modesty Part 2: The Survey

Back in 2007 I remember hearing about the Modesty Survey, courtesy of the Harris brothers and their website, The Rebelution. The results outline what 1600 guys (mostly 12-19 year olds) think is modest or immodest.

If I were to follow this advice I would have to:

*stop wearing a cross-body purse

*never partially unzip my jacket

*throw out all my tank tops

*while I’m at it, throw out any t-shirt with words on the front of it

*never adjust a slipping bra strap in public

*quit wearing jeans that have decorative stitching on the rear pockets (mom jeans, here I come!)

I had to smile as I pictured these young men navigating terms such as nylons, tutus, tankini, skort, camisole, empire-waist, cap-sleeves, shrugs, glitter lotion and gauchos. It’s a good thing the survey was photo-illustrated!

Even back in 2007 I thought it was silly that the opinions of teenage boys should have any bearing whatsoever on what I chose to wear! I was willing to heed “godly” older women like Nancy Leigh DeMoss who were able to back up their advice with Scripture (or so I thought!), but I didn’t put much stock in this modesty survey.

Honestly, I think it’s unhealthy for young men to be so analytical about girls’ clothing. I have a 12 year old son and I would never encourage him to analyze women’s clothing, shoes, and makeup to determine whether or not they cause him to lust!

Why put so much focus on what girls should or shouldn’t be wearing when the Bible has very little to say about it? This survey lets the guys off the hook in a sense by shifting the burden of responsibility onto the girls.

Unfortunately some men will struggle with lust no matter what the women around them are wearing. Women could cover themselves from head to toe but it wouldn’t solve the problem, as evidenced by the fact that finding stashes of pornography is common during investigations of Islamic militants.

In fact, Pakistan ranks #1 for porn related, sex content searches on Google, with Iran and Egypt not far behind.

It sounds good to encourage women to do their part and “help” men in their battle with lust. This advice has an appearance of wisdom. Trouble is, external rules have no value in battling sin. If dress codes for women had any value against sin Jesus wouldn’t have had to die–he could’ve just told us how to dress!

So Rebelution’s modesty survey, though well-intentioned, provides the wrong solution to the problem of sin. Girls and women and their lack of clothing aren’t the problem, lust is. Girls and women putting on more clothing isn’t the solution. Christ is.

For more on this topic read Garments of Salvation by Eric Paździora.

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8 Responses to Modesty Part 2: The Survey

  1. jacqueline says:

    i’ve really enjoyed reading your posts on this subject.. it’s a tough issue, especially i think in our current age and culture. it’s definitely something i’ve thought about countless times over my adulthood. i try to keep my balance on the narrow tightrope between “legalism” and “heading towards hedonism.” i agree that legalism is not the place to be, and i totally disagree with the idea that the pearls have perpetuated, (that men are basically carnal “animals” who have no control over lusts, and we, their women must be their “sanctification” somehow – the responsibility for their sins rests on OUR shoulders.) however, i would have a difficult time ever believing that i could wear whatever i wanted without having to give any thought to it. perhaps there aren’t specific rules as to what we as Christian women should or shouldn’t wear in God’s word, but there is one commandment in God’s word that always convicts my heart, and that is to “love one another.” i try to dress modestly, not because i believe certain styles are a sin, but simply out of love for my Christian brothers, to whom i would never want to prove a stumbling block. i also don’t want to prove a stumbling block to other Christian women, who i think can become just as easily distracted by immodesty (if not more so in some cases!) than men! we live in a culture today with such false, high standards of what is beautiful and attractive, that i think many women in today’s churches spend a lot of time comparing themselves to other women in church. of course, this doesn’t mean that i think we can’t enjoy pretty clothes, and enjoy the attractiveness that the Lord blessed us with.. i just think that part of following the command to love each other includes being considerate of others’ potential weaknesses. :) sorry to have written a book! i think about these things a lot (and have MUCH to learn still!)

  2. Becky says:

    And you hit on exactly where I’m headed with this series–love trumps all. I’ll get there eventually :-) There’s so much to explore on this topic that I can’t seem to fit it all into one post!

  3. Michelle G. says:

    Keep writing Becky! I just read through your whole blog the last few days (found you via and have really appreciated your perspective. Thank you! I’ll keep checking back.

  4. Becky says:

    Thank you Michelle! As a new blogger, I really appreciate the encouragement!

  5. Amy says:

    Becky, you’ve hit the nail on the head! Great blog post. I have two daughters and have fallen victim to certain schools of thought regarding modesty, and I’ve never been able to pinpoint what bothered me about their counsel. Now I know! It’s an age-old problem: The burden is all on the woman to portray herself a certain way so SHE doesn’t lead a man towards lust, and leaves the man totally without responsibility for controlling his own lusts. Christ IS the only solution.

  6. Eric says:

    Thanks for the link! That post has certainly sparked some good thoughts.

  7. Becky says:

    Thank you Amy for your kind words.

    Eric, you’re very welcome!

  8. Daniel says:

    “Honestly, I think it’s unhealthy for young men to be so analytical about girls’ clothing.” I couldn’t agree anymore. I just think that the modesty survey in general is not only unhealthy, but counterproductive IMO. Focusing on our sins and the sins of others is just not a healthy thing to do at all. Instead, we should just rely on Jesus to take care of the problem, because only he can do it, period.

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