A good friend of mine, whose opinion I respect greatly, has some different views than me on the issue of a woman’s modesty in dress. One of the objections he will bring up in conversations on this issue is that there is no male equivalent; a man’s modest or immodest dress doesn’t affect women.
What he means in this: If I wear an unbuttoned shirt, the effect will be to gross people out and drive them away, rather than cause them to stare… unless they’re staring like people stare at a car wreck on the 401. Either way, I doubt they’re sinning (unless they’re becoming angry at being forced to look on such a sight). The point, however, is this: If men are speaking about what types of guidelines women should have for dress, it is necessarily hypocritical (at least to some degree) because those are issues and standards that don’t apply to us. They are rules that are necessarily other-centred, which just about always will lead to legalism.
I concede his point that my wearing short-shorts won’t cause women to lust, but I disagree with the notion that there is no such thing as male modesty. In Sex is Not the Problem, Lust Is, Joshua Harris writes:
Have you ever interacted with an immodestly dressed girl and really wished she had a clue about how much her clothing affected you? Well, as a guy you need to realize that certain things you do and say to girls are the equivalent of male cleavage–they just aren’t helpful to our sisters. We need to get a clue!
Josh argues that since a woman’s desires are generally more rooted in emotional longings, things like flirting and physical touch–anything that can make a woman feel like she is being pursued or singled out for attention–are potential stumbling blocks for them. A guy who wants to love and protect his sisters in Christ will want to watch his ‘male cleavage’ (an almost disgustingly vivid image, I must say).
Here’s a more extended quote that I think is quite good on this issue. It’s taken from I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
The Guy’s Responsibility
Guys, its time we stood up to defend the honor and righteousness of our sisters. We need to stop acting like “hunters” trying to catch girls and begin seeing ourselves as warriors standing guard over them.
How do we do this? First we must realize that girls don’t struggle with the same temptations we struggle with. We wrestle more with our sex drives while girls struggle more with their emotions. We can help guard their hearts by being sincere and honest in our communication. We need to swear off flirtatiousness and refuse to play games and lead them on. We have to go out of our way to make sure nothing we say or do stirs up inappropriate feelings or expectations.
I want to weep when I think of the many times I have neglected my responsibility to guard girls’ hearts. Instead of playing the role of a warrior, I played the thief, stealing their focus from God for myself. I’m determined to do better. I want to be the kind of friend to whom girls’ future husbands could one day say, “Thank you for standing watch over my wife’s heart. Thank you for guarding her purity.”
Amen! Men, let’s set our sights here to protect the hearts of our sisters.