“Thats the big lie: Keep them at a distance, lest you be snared. The result? Men who are scared to interact with half of the human population.”

ByJonathan Trotter

I am sad. I live in Southeast Asia, and theres a massage parlor a few blocks down the street. In fact, there are several.

$2.50 is what the sign reads. And then there are the KTVs (karaoke bars) with rows of plastic chairs holding property: young women in skimpy cocktail dresses waiting for clients. Several of them within a mile of my house. Ones called Dubai, ones called Las Vegas, and ones simply called J. I know the names because theyre on the main streets. Theyre not hidden.

I see it everywhere: men objectifying women.

Do you remember about a year ago when a list of users on the affair-facilitating website Ashley Madison got leaked? And right about the same time one of the famous Duggar kids was found to be involved in a shocking sex abuse scandal. Lately, it’s been the sexual impropriety of Anthony Weiner, and his wife publicly announcing that she was leaving him after he was once again caught sexting. Sadly, there will surely be something else soon.

My worlds collide.

I grew up under the same teachings as Josh Duggar. Same home school group. Same emphasis on modesty and purity.

But my parents werent all in. I was much more into it than they were, actually. As a young teenager, I was upset because my dad wouldnt sell his dental practice so we could move into the country to be more holy. I stopped listening to rock music and even left a Christian concert once out of my strong convictions.

My parents stayed.

My parents still took us to the (agh!) public pool, but when I decided that was too “dangerous” for me, I recused myself.

So, yes, I did grow up under the same teachings. Sort of. But because we had friends outside of the movement, and because my parents were very loving and too compromising, I was spared much of the devastation.

But many people weren’t spared. You see, there are lies modesty culture teaches men.

Also, I have daughters. And sons. I have a bunch of younger sisters. And brothers. I have a wife. That makes this all very, very personal.

Lie 1: Women Are Scary

Yes, you should treat them like sisters, but really, you should be terrified of them.

Thats the big lie: Keep them at a distance, lest you be snared.

The result? Men who are scared to interact with half of the human population. Men who must look at the dirt when a woman walks by instead of looking her in the eye. That cannot be right.

Many men grow up so scared of women they never develop healthy relationships with any of them; they dont actually get to know a girl as a co-equal member of the human race.

Lie 2: Men Have a Responsibility Not to Look (but Women Have More Responsibility Not to Be Looked At)

I grew up learning of the guys responsibility to not look, and thats great, but what I really heard A LOT about was the girls responsibility to not be looked at. Practically speaking, this is just really stupid. And its offensive, because its basically saying that guys cant help themselves, and we need women to save us from our own urges. Please, ladies, put this blanket on.

Seriously, men? Give it up and guard your own heart. Not. Her. Job. You cannot blame your lust on a woman. Ever. Period. If you fall into temptation, thats on you, man.

Furthermore, lets assume for a second that every Christian woman on the planet agrees to dress modestly (however you define it) in order to help you “stay pure.” What are you going to do about the rest, who dont follow those sorts of church rules and dont care about protecting your heart? The ones Jesus still calls you to love and serve?

Modesty culture shifts blame; Id like to shift it back.

Because I cant really imagine Jesus saying, Dont lust, but if shes really attractive to you, and shes not wearing much, then I totally get it. And really, if shes pretty and is walking in front of you, its not really all your fault. She doesnt follow me or care about you, but she should know better than to dress like that. Ill assign her some of your guilt. Carry on.

Lie 3: Dehumanizing Is OK

So much of modesty culture dehumanizes women.

It reduces their complexity and unique personhood to their sexuality. In an effort to guard sexuality, it actually makes it all about sexuality. In our strong reaction to the sexualization of our culture, weve done a pretty good job of turning people into sex objects. And many have lost the ability to have healthy, close relationships.

This type of thinking about modesty also causes us to judge people who dont live according oursometimes arbitrarystandards, and says that clothes determine who we can hang out with.

Jesus hung out with all sort of seemingly unlikely people: tax collectors, prostitutes, outcasts. How could He do that and stay pure? Wasnt He afraid His followers would follow His example and fall miserably into the abyss of sin? I dont think so.

In fact, I believe Jesus wasnt afraid because He saw their humanity. And He knew that their humanity desperately needed His divinity. To love people is to be with people. And people dont always follow “the rules” or dress “appropriately.”

If we cant figure out how to deal with that, were going to have a heck of a hard time sharing Jesus with folks who dont know Him and act like it.

And that just might be the saddest thing of all.

** This article originally appeared on trotters41.com.

About the Author: Jonathan has lived in Southeast Asia since 2012, where he serves as a pastoral counselor and helps lead an international church. He tweets @trotters41 and blogs at trotters41.com.

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