Another BYU Modesty Note: The Toxicity of Shame in LDS Culture

Let me preface this post by stating that I am a devout Mormon, an active and proud BYU student, and for the most part, greatly appreciative of the LDS culture that is characteristic of Utah Valley.  I have never been happier than I have been for the last two years which I spent in Provo.  That being said, there are certain aspects of Mormon culture that manifest themselves particularly nastily at BYU, and often target young women such as myself.

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This is a note I received sitting in the periodicals section of the BYU library.  It reads:

                Dear Cute Girl,

                I have seen you at the Library before and (first off I’m not trying to be creepy, Just a nice friend) you where [sic] that Blue Shirt a lot (which By the way the color looks really good) however I notice that its [sic] a little low cut.  The guy sitting in front of you a table away keeps Looking (Just thought I would warn you).  I hope you take care and help the boys around Here out in the future. So they don’t have the temptation.

Sincerly [sic], a friend looking out for you and the Boys

 

It was delivered to me quietly by a young woman I had never seen before.  I don’t know if she wrote the note herself or was delivering it for a friend. While I certainly appreciate her subtlety, (she didn’t make eye contact and sat down immediately after) I felt my heart sink as I saw the folded paper before me.  Everybody at BYU knows what a library note from girl to girl means.  I felt humiliated and sat in shamed shock as I read and reread the accusation packed among compliments and faux-concern: I was causing this young man to sin.  The shirt in question was a long sleeved t-shirt with a V-neck, one which had been given to me by my conservative mother and which I had worn to church in the past.  It was flattering, yes, but by no means inappropriate.

I looked up at the man who had been staring, and held eye contact, my eyebrows raised in a clear expression of disapproval.  He faltered, embarrassed at having been caught, quickly packed his backpack and left.  (That’s my preferred method for dealing with oglers, all women should take note, it’s very effective!)

                The man was gone, but I was left in a shallow pit of shame, embarrassed that the shirt my mother had bought me for my birthday was the star of a classic library controversy.  My shame melted into disgust, however, as I dissected the note further.

                Why had my BYU classmate written the note to me? The man who was staring was the active perpetrator, engaging in lustful behavior and thoughts; I was simply the object.  (Although as far as I know he had been spaced out with his eyes unfortunately aimed towards my chest.  I guess we’ll never know).  If this modesty vigilante had been so concerned with this man’s mental chastity, a much more appropriate note would have read: Dear Creepy Guy, I can see you openly staring at that young lady’s chest.  I just want to help you out by reminding you to keep your thoughts pure.  I hope you take care to help yourself out in the future by avoiding viewing women inappropriately, so you don’t have any temptations.  Sincerely, a friend looking out for you and the girls around you.

                Unfortunately, the blame fell to me.  I was causing this man to stare, never mind the fact that it was the silent section of the library, kept quiet to minimalize distractions so that students could focus on their studies.  This man apparently was so weak-minded that he was forced by the celestial power of my breasts to neglect his schoolwork and zero in on the one aspect of humanity that gives women power over men.  I was the slinky vixen, hell-bent on singlehandedly corroding the virtue of the poor, unsuspecting male population of Provo.

                Except not.  I put on a comfortable, cute T-shirt that flattered my body and was weather-appropriate, with no devilish, corrosive agenda.  Leading young men astray or drawing attention towards my breasts had been the last thing on my mind.  I can think of two possible solutions to remedy the situation I’ve described: I (and other women in the library) could have taken 25 minutes to go home and change, OR, this man could have simply refocused his attention to his schoolwork.  Which one seems more fair to ask?  Which one offers a long-term solution to his problem of being distracted by women’s bodies?  I was being asked to modify my clothing, when this man could have been asked to modify his behavior.

                If he was so jarred by the sight of the skin beneath my collarbone, can this poor ‘immodesty victim’ function outside of Provo?  I shudder to think of the moral decay he would experience on a beach in my native New York.  He can’t honestly expect each woman he encounters to completely obscure even the shape of her breasts.  His outlook on female modesty needed an adjustment, not my outfit.

                The letter I received warned me about “men’s temptations.”  Temptations to do WHAT, may I ask?  Touch my body inappropriately?  Have sex with me?  I can wholeheartedly promise that I would NOT allow that to happen.  The vagueness surrounding such “temptations” is frustrating.

Ignoring the fact that breasts have no sexual function and in many cultures are considered completely normal and unexciting body parts, my shirt was by no means overtly revealing, and I will continue to wear it without guilt.  It is downright dangerous to blame women for the thoughts of their antagonists.  Thoughts lead to words lead to actions lead to character.  I refuse to take responsibility for a man’s actions.  The selling point of our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation was agency.  Men are blessed with a choice to entertain impure thoughts or not, regardless of their surroundings.  Heavenly Father has promised that He will never present us with temptation we cannot overcome.  The young man in the library exercised his agency.  I was completely outside of his decision to ogle me.

Instead of shaming women anonymously for wearing comfortable, practical clothing, it’s time we hold men accountable for their own thoughts and actions.  Men are not subject to carnal cravings; portraying them as such is insulting to men and dangerous for women.  While I appreciate the concern from my library “friend,” I am scared for the future if this modesty policing continues.

Some thoughts:

I have heard over and over and over again in church that “men are visual creatures.  Your physical appearance has a huge influence on men.”  Am I the only one who thinks that humans in general are visual creatures?  Maybe women just express their visually-driven nature in a more appropriate way.

The power a woman’s breasts have over men is highlighted consistently in YW lessons.  Perhaps the idea of women having power over men is terribly threatening, and that is what drives the LDS obsession with female modesty.

Has any man ever in the history of BYU ever received a note ever telling him that his clothing was ever tempting a woman ever?  Ever?  If women are expected to conduct themselves appropriately regardless of the physical appearance of those around them, so should men.

Sexual impurity (even in thought) seems to be the only sin for which someone else can be blamed.  If you’re able to turn down a friend who pressures you to drink alcohol, or disappoint a classmate who wants help cheating on an exam, you should be able to apply that same willpower to sexual sins. 

MEN: You have your agency.  You don’t have to stare if you don’t want to.  Please don’t play the victim here.  You’re better than that.

To the author/deliverer of that note: While I think your concern was misplaced, I sincerely appreciate the sweet compliments you gave me, and your discretion.

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This is the shirt in question.  Sexy?  Maybe.  Provocative to the point of taking away male agency?  Hahahahahaha!  Nope.

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683 thoughts on “Another BYU Modesty Note: The Toxicity of Shame in LDS Culture

  1. I’m going to call “BS” on this one. First of all, no one that gets accepted to BYU (avg. 3.8 GPA, 28+ ACT) writes like a drunk or doesn’t know the difference between “where” and “wear”. BYU students are required to have laptops, not ruled paper, though that isn’t alone compelling evidence. However, a blog who’s one and only post is this article does seem suspect. I wouldn’t put it past anyone who hates BYU (or thinks the end justifies the means) to fabricate this ridiculousness. Also, the owner of the blog doesn’t disclose her identity, which would be an easy check if she was a real student. She writes like an individual who has spent considerable time with the issue, which suggests to me someone with more experience, not a junior in college.

    Finally, she begins in the traditional anti-Mormon fashion, proclaiming her allegiance to the Church (“devout”, “active”, and “proud” are her words). But then she goes on to say that there are nasty aspects of LDS culture which target women. Sound like a set up? It could be a true story, but my gut says bull hooey. “The power a woman’s breasts have over men is highlighted consistently in YW lessons.” WHAT?! Since when?! What lesson manual are they teaching out of in NYC? “Perhaps the idea of women having power over men is terribly threatening, and that is what drives the LDS obsession with female modesty.” Again – WHAT?! That doesn’t sound like a professional agitator to you?

    • You obviously haven’t graded many freshmen papers.

      Also, I think even a cursory reading of the comments to this post would make it clear why she didn’t want to disclose her identity. She’s been called immodest, unfaithful to her church, and continually slandered. You’ve even added “anti-Mormon.”

      Since when is a person required to shut up about the problems in their society in order to be a proud member of it? I would think that standing up to address those issues marks bravery rather than disloyalty.

    • Read this: http://www.rolereboot.org/culture-and-politics/details/2013-11-how-we-teach-our-kids-that-women-are-liars

      I too was a little perturbed by the improper grammar and spelling. Maybe the writer of the note has a learning disability and excels in the sciences but has very poor writing skills?

      Nearly every BYU student owns several notebooks. Handwritten notetaking may be waning, but it still exists.

      I didn’t give my name because 1.) I didn’t want anyone to mistakenly believe I did this for attention 2.) I didn’t want to receive hateful messages from those who disagree and 3.) I’m a pretty shy person and would be embarrassed if my name were made so public.

      If I truly hated the LDS church, I would accept the flawed aspects of its culture as irremediable and leave. The fact that I’m doing my small part to try and fix the problems shows that I am genuinely dedicated to the church and to making the culture an environment that fosters the Christ-like acceptance and love that is so integral to LDS doctrine.

      I am flattered that you think my writing is of a level beyond that of a college junior, but I am in fact a 19 year old woman (in NY you start kindergarten at age 4 so I’m a little young for my grade). I do have a lot of experience discussing this topic- the militaristic obsession with female modesty is something that has bothered me since I was in Primary and learned that it’s sinful for little girls to expose their shoulders.

      I don’t know when you most recently attended a Standards Night or modesty lesson, but I have been told time and again that as a woman, my body was designed to ignite sexual thoughts in young men. I have also learned that it is my responsibility to avoid sparking these thoughts before marriage by keeping it covered. I love the church, but this is a fundamental fallacy that pervades LDS culture, and it needs to be examined.

      I am by no means anti-Mormon, and I am not a “professional agitator.” It’s hurtful that my experience and input would be so flatly dismissed, but I am grateful that I have the means to share my (true) story and hopefully be a part of the change.

      • to newyorkerinutah. i hope you don’t mind me using you as an example in an essay i am writing. i fully support you and i only hope that you do not turn out like i did, bitter, resentful and full of hate. from what i read in your article you are an amazing person, kind, thoughtful, forgiving, but most importantly open-minded, the world needs more people like you. i hope you have a happy life and find someone who i perfect for you. i only ask one thing: don’t let your kids turn out like me(assuming you will have/ even want kids).

    • none of your points matter, and in this case the ends do justify the means. besides i don’t think she needs any more people telling her negative things, words have more of an impact on people then anybody wants to admit except for shane koyczan, the poet the behind to this day project, and i quote “as if words hurt more then broken bones and we got called them all.” shane is the only person i have met in my 17 years on this earth that knows and admits that words can hurt more then broken bones. things like this need to end. everyone on this planet needs to admit to the fact that words hurt and stop doing things like what happened in her story. now i am a guy i have lived in utah for almost all of my life and until recently i have been a mormon( i now consider myself an agnostic) and for three years of my life i was emotionally and psychologically tortured no one laid a finger on me, all of it was done with words and now because of that torture i am now very emotionally unstable, almost incapable of making new friends and had to ask one of the few friends i still have contact with, and consider him my brother, to do something that could take an emotion toll on him even i cant imagine out of fear that i might hurt him, something that if i do i could never live with myself after. my bottom line is this: WORDS HURT!! be carful how you use them because you never truly know just how much pain they can cause

      • this was aimed at CMK and no one else. mewyorkerinutah please dont be offended at this i fully support you and hope that you have a good time for the rest of your colledge.

  2. Perhaps the biggest problem with the porn and modesty discussion is this need to blame others or be a victim. Try to forget what you think is morally wrong or right, and who is the perpetrator and who is the victim. We want to point fingers and say the “immodest” dresser is the victim of addict’s wandering mind, or vice versa, but lifted fingers don’t get us far at all. If you ever attend a sexaholics anonymous group (similar to AA) they will discourage “victimizing” – turning you or someone else into a “victim” needing restitution. Don’t turn the addict or the girl who might be immodest into the victim. Neither of them need the blame or the destructive self-pity. Taking that in stride, nothing I say in this post is meant to contradict, insult, or demean you. I just want to share with you a bigger picture of the problem at hand.

    Look: sex addiction happens. Porn and masturbation happens. Often it starts with curiosity coming from unresolved emotional misunderstandings. Some people are more disposed than others, just like an alcoholic can be more genetically vulnerable to an alcohol addiction. Alcoholism is considered a disease. Sexaholism has similar social and physical implications, and is becoming more widely recognized as a disease as well. Addicts aren’t bad people; they’re just sick people. Traditionally, we help sick people, not make them more sick.

    What does the sickness do to them? Like leprosy, it drives away loved ones, as they feel that they can’t trust the addict anymore. Also like leprosy, it has the addict turning to isolation and escapism; they don’t like how numb, dirty, and confused it makes them feel, so they try to escape so they don’t hurt anyone. But, leave them alone long enough, they can’t escape their own addicted brains, and they’ll relapse again. Relapsing is also a coping mechanism for the stresses of life, so it’ll be especially prevalent among college boys AND girls who stress out more than the average person due to school and social pressures.

    Even without outside moral education, the addict who experiences porn (though they can’t put their finger on why) find that it feels “gross” to them. But once they start looking, or touching themselves, or fantasizing (no matter how it registers as “gross” and “weird” to them), myelin sheaths start to form around certain neuron axons, making info transfer faster, and the stimuli-recognizing neurons physically move closer to the pleasure-feeling neurons. Super highways of stimuli-to-pleasure begin to form so the reaction to certain stimuli is instantaneous. It happens too quickly and naturally for any self-regulation to intervene. This happens to cocaine, alcohol, eating, video game, facebook, and sex addicts. They are literally re-wired, and it all happens subconsciously. To un-wire that connection is a painstaking process, because bonds formed by pleasure hormones are the strongest.

    To ask an addict to not “lust” after someone whose clothing is triggering pleasure responses (no matter precisely how that clothing is cut) in their brain is like trying to turn back the tides. They’re brain is now set up to react that way, even if they don’t want it to. If you want to solve that problem, do two things:

    1. Help them reverse and break the pleasure circuit in their brain by directing them to addiction recovery programs.
    These have the tools to actually reverse the wiring. Even dressing modestly won’t reverse the wiring, unfortunately. BUT, dressing immodestly will STRENGTHEN and fortify the wiring, guaranteed. So,

    2. Don’t strengthen the wiring by offering more stimuli.
    And asking the addict to not take the stimuli in is an impossible request; if it’s in front of them, it’s going in them whether they like it or not. It’s not like free-samples that you can take or leave at will; it’s like running up to someone who is allergic to peanuts, prying their mouth open, shoving peanut butter cups down their throat, then asking them not to go into anaphylactic shock, or blaming them for swallowing it. Dressing in an alluring, sexy, or provocative way is shoving poison down an addicts throat against their will. They can turn off a computer or take their hands out of their pants when they willfully seek stimuli; that is a choice they actually can and should make. But they can’t control you; they can’t wear horse-blinders or choose to put better clothing on you as you walk past them. You can be a soft-core porn source that they can’t turn off or unplug. By the way, soft-core porn is defined as “suggestive and titillating through not being totally explicit or detailed.” Being immodest is definitely titillating but is not as “detailed” as being naked.

    Most young women are scared of getting married and finding out their husband is a sex addict. They are appalled to hear of anyone they know being addicted, which is why addicts go to great lengths to hide the addiction – they don’t want to lose loved ones. But you’d be utterly surprised at just how many of your friends, boys and girls (I have two girl friends who are recovering sex addicts) are addicted but are super good at hiding it from you. Instead of attacking them, try loving and understanding them. And if you want to help addicts recover (and possibly prevent yourself from marrying one and living through your worst fear), then dress modestly, speak modestly (avoiding sexual topics), flip over magazines at the grocery store that have immodest men/women on them, and the like.

    There is little we can do to help an addict recover: that is battle they must fight alone. But we can help fight in our own ways by not aggravating the problem.

    “Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner.”
    https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth/dress-and-appearance?lang=eng

    Another fantastic blog on the modesty issue with a delightfully different twist:
    http://babymakingbybecky.blogspot.com/2013/09/being-sexy.html

    • I am wondering how much experience in the psychology field you have at this point. I work with addicts at a recovery house, as well as people with serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia. I am going to ask you to not give such terrible advice to someone, ever.. Also no, most young women are not scared of that. Also do you even know what the word addict means?? Sex addiction is very rare. People liking and engaging in sex is high. Do not confuse the word addiction with ANYTHING else please. And yes they can’t control their surroundings, but that is why THEY must learn to remove themselves from the situation if a stimuli is present. PTSD people go off due to random stimuli, but we teach them calming techniques in order to cope and how to deal with the stimuli and PTSD attacks. Please PLEASE! stop giving terrible advice on this so called “addiction”
      Thanks
      Your friendly psychologist

    • You think new Myelin forms because someone touches himself while watching porn?? Well, jeez, you better contact the NIH with this info, there are quite a few fatal illnesses that you’ve found a cure for, most notably MS.
      Please, Mormon church, educate your members better before putting them out into the world to spread the good news…

  3. She was probably jealous because her boobs don’t get any attention. I have large breasts and girls are always telling me they want some like mine. She was probably stalking the guy through the book shelves, noticed him staring at you and your very attractive upper body, and knew she’d never have a chance with him so she took it out on you. At least, that’s all I can think when she’s talking about how the “guy a table away keeps looking.” Glad you’re not ashamed. There are always going to be petty people like this, unfortunately. Does BYU have any vibrating massage chairs in the library? If so wear a turtleneck and have a seat… see what people say then. 🙂

  4. I agree that a man should try to turn his thoughts away from it, however It is very hard. With that it is harder for some others also. We are all on a different level of difficulty, when it comes to keeping our minds pure. You may be good at it, but the young man may have not been. The leaders of our church has said it is the young man, AND YOUNG WOMEN S responsibility to help each other keep our thoughts clean. I am a BYU student currently also, and I can tell you writing a paper on this, is going to do nothing but put more negative propaganda on the church. Yes it was maybe unnecessary to write that note, but it is also unnecessary to lash out on it, and put another black mark on the church.

    • I’m trying to help Mormon culture become an environment that fosters the love and acceptance that is so integral to LDS doctrine. Nothing I did was intended to harm the church’s image. What is harmful to the church’s image is members expressing unrighteous judgment. Nonmembers who see my blog post (I hope) will be impressed with my proactivity and realize that not all Mormons are as judgmental as the ones who make lasting impressions on them with hurtfully judgmental attitudes.

  5. The power of the boobs compels me! Just kidding. I have no idea what these temptations are that this girl spoke of. Then again, I am a man who struggles with attraction towards other men. Maybe we should shame men for wearing those tight muscle shirts so I won’t be tempted to ogle them? Ludicrous. I need to be in control of my own thoughts and behaviors. I have my own agency and I’m accountable for it..

  6. Both men and women have a responsibility to each other, and that’s all there is to it. The real problem in this situation is simply the person who wrote the note. People say and do offensive things- at BYU, in our wards, in the community. It’s important not to assume that just because one person believes/says something stupid that everyone in that community must be the same. That’s simply not true and I believe that the Church as a whole understands and teaches mutual respect and responsibility from both males and females.

  7. I am imagining a byu student transferring to UCSB, the number 2 party school in the US. Oh and we are number 2 in research in the whole world, so play hard work hard!

      • You know, I don’t think John’s remark would be threatening. I much prefer his direct approach to the note’s secretive nature. A direct approach can be answered directly and be dismissed. But why would the note’s author feel like they had to hide their identity unless they felt like they have something to hide? Usually, at least in my experience, hiding something means that you are ashamed of it or that you know you are doing something wrong. That in my opinion completely destroys the note’s credibility.

  8. Fairly modest. If your cleavage is showing, it’s low. When you bend over do you have to put your hand to your chest to keep your boobs from showing?
    While you are right….it is not your responsibility to control or even have an input on what a man thinks but, the fact is, that you do. Men are visual; most women are not. Women are emotional; most men are not. Men and women are different creatures aroused by different aspects of the opposite sex. Know that you should not be held accountable for the impure thoughts a man has of you and anyone who blames you for their thoughts or anyone else’s is lazily pointing blame.
    The note given to you was a thoughtful gesture. Whomever wrote the note was probably too embarrassed to tell you that some perv is looking at your boobs. No matter how the information was delivered to you, wouldn’t you want to know anyway? Granted, the note seems a bit insulting and I would have preferred a tap on the shoulder and a whisper in my ear about my semi-revealing t-shirt. .
    You are at a school with dress standards and thus should expect some over-achieving person to assign himself the role of ‘attire police’. Take the note as a well meaning comment from a motherly figure (scratch out the mild compliments masked in ‘you should have not worn….”) and enjoy your youth.

      • Yeah… no. Current research (as recent as 2013) states that men aren’t actually from Mars and women aren’t actually from Venus. While that line is kind of goofy – the truth is men and women have pretty much the same thoughts about sex and sexuality. Time to update your info. (Please, don’t just take my word for it… check out the research yourself. One really great article on this subject is “Beyond sexual stereotypes: Revealing group similarities and differences in optimal sexuality”.) The author of this post is 100% right. The note would have been better delivered to the offender – the guy ogling.

    • Women aren’t visual? Really? So women don’t stare and groan and smile to themselves when they see a picture of Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum shirtless, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemworth…. Need I go on?

    • You have completely missed the author’s point. It is NOT incumbent upon women to dress so that men will not look at them lustfully, it is incumbent upon men and women to learn to control their baser instincts at ALL times. That means treating others respectfully no matter what they are or are not wearing. Righteous LDS men and women can become medical doctors who see patients in all states of undress and do not become overcome by lust, because they are responsible, decent human beings. LDS women do not need to go about in oversized, shapeless clothes and feel ashamed of their bodies, they can even look (gasp!) SEXY and still be perfectly righteous and modest. Women dressed head to toe in concealing clothes can and sometimes do act immodestly and even commit adultery. To paraphrase, clothes do not make the woman.

    • “While you are right….it is not your responsibility to control or even have an input on what a man thinks but, the fact is, that you do.”

      Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

      Passive acceptance of an anal cultural trend only allows it to grow stronger.

    • Glamgirljulia, I was raised LDS and this prevalent culture is one of the things that started my questioning the church and eventually leaving. I just wanted to let you know that studies have shown that women are just as sexual as men. We think about sex at an equal or higher rate. If we didn’t then movies wouldn’t have scenes meant purely for the titillation. If you don’t believe me… watch Hugh Jackman pour water down himself in the movie Australia. Also look at the demographic that had Magic Mike in the expensive movie theaters for so long. It was women, and we didn’t go for the plot line. I looked at the picture of the shirt, and it is a modest shirt. It also looks comfortable. This not is the equivalent of the comment (which has been made many times) “Well of course she was raped… Did you see what she is wearing?” Things like this comment and this note place blame for sexual assault and impurity on the victim. It is not okay and we do not need to encourage the thought process. I sincerely hope nothing like this ever happens to you, but I assure you, if it does it would devastate you to be told that it was your fault in any way. It wasn’t, it was the perv that attacked you or sexualized you.

      To the girl who received the note. I am sorry that you experienced that. Keep being true to yourself. As you are not from Utah, I should let you know (as I am sure you have noticed) Utah is a special place. We have our own culture and often refer to this state as the bubble. Just remember why you like your religion and forget everyone else. Because our beliefs are really all religion is about. I am happy that you have a belief system that brings you joy and peace. Do not let this rattle you about your beliefs. You have to remember that the religion is not the unfortunate culture it creates but the gospel behind it. I would tell you this no matter the religion you were. Religion is hard because people are not perfect. Keep doing what you believe to be right and it will all work out. Don’t let silly people who think your business is theirs get you down. Sorry my home is a silly, silly place some times. I hope you still can see the beauty in it.

      • As a woman who was assaulted then told it was my fault for being a girl on BYU campus, I can testify it is devastating to not only work through the ordeal but to then deal with the people who verbally express the opinion that I was at fault for wearing jeans and a crew neck t shirt on a date with an RM. It sucks that this mentality is so prevalent in this culture.

    • Sorry, but cleavage is not immodest in and of itself. Saying that cleavage is immodest is just like saying that thin women can get away with wearing shirts that cling gently to their figure (like the shirt above) but chubby girls cannot because they’d be “revealing too much”, simply because they have more to reveal. My Double-Ds are rarely fully covered with every move that I make simply because I don’t feel like it is fair to expect me to wear turtleneck shirts year-round while other less-well-endowed women get to enjoy the freedom of a modest v-neck. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to modesty. If an endowed woman can dress to cover her garments, then the rest is up to her – not for lustful men to judge, and certainly not for other self-righteous women to judge.

      This is body shaming at its finest.

      • Read the original comment and pay attention: no one is stating that what a women chooses to wear is fair game for rape. That’s just ridiculous. Or that cleavage is immodest. No one said that women control men and their thoughts I think the person is simply stating that the shirt is a bit low and what a woman wears CAN have an influence on the thoughts of a male. AND, THAT’S NOT THE WEARER’S FAULT. Same goes for women, as one commenter stated. No blame, no judging, no shame.
        To the poster of the blog: Your experience is not an isolated incident. There are many posted on the web of BYU women receiving notes just like the one you received. Don’t be offended if someone gives you a note about your dress. If you are comfortable in it, that’s great. It seems as if you need validation for your dress more for your self esteem than the person giving you the note was trying to be kind.
        Would you post this if a friend told you your shirt was revealing and that men were staring at your chest?

  9. As much as I agree that men should keep their minds out of the gutters, it helps to note that women’s modesty does go a long way to prevent men from getting those thoughts in the first place. That is why the leaders of the Church encourage women to dress modestly. I don’t think the shirt was too revealing, but it may vary on what excites men. My husband would agree that it is hard for men to simply turn the other way when a girl wears a shirt too revealing or tight or a skirt that is too short. It is how they are programmed: to feel attracted to women who have flattering features. Being married, I also have a qualm with the statement that breasts do not have any sexual function, which is entirely false. I guess it may be TMI, but they do play a role. I hope that you don’t feel too sore about the incident and yes I feel that it that would be very embarrassing to have that happen to any girl.

    • I appreciate you addressing that particular statement, because while I agreed with the author on many things, that one seemed a little off. While yes, I suppose the primary function for breasts is to feed infants, they still definitely have a sexual function, (and not necessarily just for men either).

    • And what about men that wear a lil too tight of jeans that outline their butt? What about when their shirt just defines their muscles too much? Are THEY told to change? Because women WILL look . . . . Same as men would look at a woman.

    • breasts act as a sex attractor because they mimic the rounded globules of the buttocks, which are the primary sexual attractors. take an anthropology class some time.

      • IME, most of the people on campus don’t know what the word anthropology means, let alone the awesome things it teaches.

    • Yes but the fact of the matter remains that a young man on BYU’s campus would most likely never get a note like this. As previous commenters have explained, women are just as sexual as males. Yet do young men ever get lectured or shamed for wearing pants or shirts that show off their backsides, calves, or arms (all of which are attractive to women regardless of their sexual function)? No. Garments allow men to wear t-shirts and shorts that aren’t that loose. Men should be able to wear these things; t-shirts and shorts are comfortable, especially in the summer. But a simple outfit like that could be extremely attractive for a young women. And yet no one would ever shift the blame to the young man if she ogled him; in fact, she would probably be considered extremely inappropriate. Neither gender can always control their desires; the issue is not that a young woman wearing a slight, and very modest, V-neck, or a young man wearing gently-clinging shorts attracting attention from the opposite sex. The issue is respect. We can look at the opposite sex without objectifying them. We can glance without ogling. We can appreciate while remembering that they are a human being who, while having a sexual side, is also a complicated mix of intelligence and personality. This writer of the post did not want to attract attention. She wanted to study. If the young man noticing her had simple glanced and let her be, it wouldn’t have been a problem. The problem came when he didn’t control his thoughts enough to stop himself from ogling. If men REALLY don’t have control over themselves to such an extent that they can’t glance and get back to their studies ?(which our quite intense at BYU, from what I understand), then why do they have so much power in the church? If it is young women who can appreciate the opposite sex (and every woman appreciates) and yet keep in mind enough that she is staring at a human being and not disrespect him from afar, perhaps this is the gender that should hold greater control in the household, the church hierarchy, and our state government in Utah. Because I believe that all men are capable such respect, however, I would hope they would shift their perspectives enough to both respect women and teach the young men in their influence such respect.

  10. Hmmmm, I’m just wondering how the author of the note
    was accepted to BYU? She(he) has the penmanship, grammar, and English skills of a lower grade school student. She(he) is obviously very in tune with the honor code. Oh, ok, that explains it.

    • HaHa u took the words right out of my mouth. At 1st glance at this note ..I didn’t know what this post was about. I assumed it was a letter written to Santa or the tooth fairy. Seriously my 7 year old niece can write better than this lol

  11. Wow, there’s a lot of “she was wrong to give you that note, but actually she was completely right” in these comments. Even if men really were the mindless, responsibility-absolved penises they like to pretend they are, it’s not your duty to be the guardian of their moral purity.
    Human garbage like John Stone here cannot be allowed to hide behind arguments borrowed from the Saudi religious police, and women need to stop making that effort on their behalf.

  12. I love your post. As a rape victim’s advocate, I’m often reminded of the sexual double standards that young women face. Men are often given a pass for their bad behavior (yes, even sexual assault) if a woman was wearing something someone can call “too immodest.” The reality is that you’re totally right: all that guy had to do was avert his eyes and then you could wear literally anything you wanted. Thank you for writing on this particularly harmful and horrifying part of LDS culture. It takes a lot of guts.

  13. The note was totally inappropriate! And to who ever it was that stated that the reason our leaders stress modesty is to help our fellow beings its not why it is a big part of LDS culture.
    The reason modest is taught is to show respect for the temple God has given us to house our body’s and to help the person who is being modest to have better thoughts, not for the people around us. We only have control over our own thoughts and actions, making modesty for the person who decides to be modest not the people around us.

    • We are all brothers and sisters working towards the same cause, our perfection and return to our heavenly home, so we should be willing to help each other out when necessary and with the right intentions. I think that it would have been better to send a note to the guy staring. He was willfully in the wrong. And it could have been done in such a way that shared concern and respect for him, but still helped him on his way to correct himself.

      BUT, with that being said, it is important to realize that EVERYONE should be concerned about modesty. It effects how they feel about themselves and can influence how others act towards us.

      Here are a selection from some heavenly counsel God has given us through our church leaders:

      “Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him. Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.
      Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God.” (For the Strength of Youth: Dress and Appearance; page 6)

    • Agreed! Modesty is more about the sacredness of our bodies than the thoughts of people around us. And honestly, I think people forget too much about temple covenants when considering the purpose of modesty. Modesty has everything to do with the temple and the atonement. Youth are taught to be modest not only to show respect for their bodies (which is such a precious gift) but also to prepare to go to the temple and the dress standards that come with the temple ordinances.

  14. OK, doctrine: #1 commandment according to a reliable source – love God, be like Him, be high minded and be holy. Care about His children.
    #2 Commandment from the same source – love one another, respect one another as you wish to loved and respected.
    #3. There is no #3,”on these hang ALL the law (Torah) and the prophets (Talmud)”. ALL. Treat another child of God as her Heavenly Father would and as you want to be treated. You are not created to be someones involuntary eye candy. It would make you feel bad. Don’t do it.

    Opinion: Modesty is not about you. If you see an obese, inactive, unkempt person, are they treating there body as God’s creation? Does it matter how their clothes are cut? Can this person get a pass on poor nutrition, lethargy, bad grooming so that they are magically “modest” Face it, good paint on an unsound house will not make it a mansion. It is not about how you adorn yourself with clothes. Modesty is about how you respect those around you, not about how you think of yourself, that is self-worth, not modesty. Modest people do not dress to provoke. Humble people do not speak or act to impress. Modest people do not shame others who do not fit their image of perfection.

    Modesty is not nor should it be a “standard”. Do we have a standard of humility? Of charity? Of holiness? Of testimony? These are all virtues, but none are set up as standards. Neither should modesty. If someone gave you a note criticizing your humility or your charity what would you do? What if a stranger told you your testimony was not up to standards and was causing those around you doubt? If you answer was “change” or “be ashamed”, you need to work on your understanding of agency and divine worth. If you took offense, you would be right, the judger’s invasion of your personal space and lack of respect for God’s creation trumps any perceived imperfection .

    If you criticize a man’s coat, you must give him yours. If you criticize a woman’s dress you must buy her better. If you find error in a young woman’s mode of attire. You must provide her better.

    That sweater was good quality, I think worth more that $50. Did the note writer include a %50 bill with the note to buy another? If not she is a pharisaical hypocrite, quick to judge but slow to redeem. Christ condemned such as these as worse than the sinners. He said nothing about immodest dress. Are you Christian?

  15. Great post. I completely agree.

    I used to work law enforcement and one point that most fail to understand and acknowledge is that virtually all rape/sexual assault victims are fully dressed and wearing what most would consider “modest” clothing. When someone looks to “assault’ a victim sexually (whether physically or mentally) you can bet they have long since “objectified” the victim and what he/she may have covering their body has nothing to do with the perpetrators thoughts. Also consider that muslim countries who force their women to wear burkhas still have some of the highest rape/sexual assault numbers around (just minimally reported to do the stigma against the burkha wearing woman instead of holding the man accountable).

    Unfortunately it is easier to make pharisaical rules than to obey the principles as taught by the Savior in not lusting after others. Thus we get rules dealing with hemlines and dress lengths and not in looking at people as people versus sexual objects.

  16. This is nuts. Can we please stop (including some commenters here) with the “women have a responsibility for men’s thoughts/actions” ridiculousness? Should women dress modestly? Sure, if that’s what they want to be. But they would be making that decision and choosing their clothing because of a decision THEY want to make for THEM and how THEY want to represent THEMselves and THEIR body. Period.

    The boys in Provo and elsewhere are the ones to 100% are responsible for their thoughts and behavior. Any suggestion whatsoever that a woman is responsible at all for what a man thinks/does is a step in the wrong direction–a direction that transfers responsibility away from men and onto their victims. It’s a horrible, sexist way to look at the world. The sooner we put ALL of the focus on men for their thoughts and behaviors, the sooner they will learn to take responsibility for themselves.

    The poster in this case is 100% right, and her shirt is neither sexy nor provocative in the least.

  17. Am I the only one that sees the bright neon yellow bra shining through the shirt in the picture??? I honestly don’t care. It’s just a little funny, because based on your post I’m guessing you were not intending to show your underwear off…

    Anyway. Don’t listen to creepers in the library 🙂

    • I totally agree. I was shocked at the poor grammar and spelling of someone in college – much less a highly academically competitive school (according to BYU, anyway.)

  18. Is she right that there is blame to procure and apply in a note to the young man?
    Yes.

    Is the dude a bit of a creeper?
    For sure.

    Is that note, passed in university setting, disturbing for reasons other than it’s message? Oh boy writing, spelling, and grammar left the building.

    Is she glossing over the real problem here?
    Maybe.

    Different cultures sexualize different things. Should a latter day saint, in whatever culture they reside, be sensitive to the needs (weaknesses) of others and willing to adapt their ideas of what dress is appropriate to mitigate the potential negative impact it might have on others, of whatever level of self discipline.
    Yes. (that was a ginormous sentence)

    Some muslims have women wrap themselves in cloth (even when it is stinking hot) to combat this. I don’t agree with that either. There’s a happy medium that the Holy Ghost will help you find if you’re honest, humble, and willing to take whatever answer you get.

    The principal is the same. Critically pointing fingers and saying “he shouldn’t have looked” doesn’t contribute to the problem at hand. You can wear some pretty revealing clothing around toddlers and not cause a problem, other than your poor example, sexually. But if you contribute to the opposing team in a group of young men’s minds who are battling to maintain virtue, then you might want to reconsider what you’re doing. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have worn a looser tunic if people were weird and thought his neck was provocative.

    #thoughts

    • I can’t help but disagree with this line of thinking. When she gets dressed in the morning, she should be thinking “Does this fit my style,” “Is this comfortable and do I feel comfortable wearing it,” and even “Does this comply with the Honor Code?” She should not have to think “Will this cause impure thoughts in the men around me who are not self-disciplined?”

      Because frankly, if men are not self-disciplined it doesn’t take an immodest shirt for them to think impure thoughts.

      • @scott When a latter day saint gets dressed they should always ask is this something Jesus would wear if he were here. Because frankly, secular considerations of convenience and preference always come secondary to covenant keepers and disciples of Christ.

      • Thank you! That is 100% right. IF a person (male or female) is not self disciplined they can find any excuse to think impure thoughts. If we are comfortable in what we wear, and if those clothes adhere to our standards, that should be enough. It’s not like she was wearing a tank top or belly shirt. She was wearing a normal V-neck sweater.

  19. I think this whole situation is ridiculous. I’m sporting a pair of d’s inside this bra, so practically any shirt (unless its a high necked t-shirt or a turtleneck) is going to show some cleavage whether im standing or bending over. But yet again, I’ve worn a hoodie with a pair of jeans and I’ve been harassed and cat called. Thank god I live in California where men are usually assumed to have enough intelligence to know how to control their thoughts.

    Saying its you’re fault that he was staring at what I could assume was minimal cleavage (and that’s only if you were slouching or bending over), is like saying its the woman’s fault for getting raped if she was wearing provocative clothing. Its basic slut shaming and its another way men make us feel guilty or inferior for our sexuality. (and I’m not saying you are a slut, that’s just what its called)

  20. I’ll chime in and say that as a male college student at BYU (which I include merely as a point of reference as to where I’m coming from) I think that the note is completely inappropriate. It is true that men are heavily impacted by visual stimulation. A well formed pair of boobs can be very distracting, even when modestly covered. Alas, this is a cross that we as men must bear. Somehow, I make it through my day and even get my homework done in spite of the many beautiful women around me. I am responsible for my actions, not the people around me, just as you are not responsible for the actions of the student ogling you.

    I chose to sign the Honor Code. As such, if I go to the testing center with an unshaven face, I would expect to be told to go home and shave. If I am walking on campus and a student tells me to go home and shave, that would be inappropriate. If a library employee had thought your manner of dress to be inappropriate (which would be crazy, cause that shirt is absolutely fine, and not immodest) and asked you to change, I would expect you to comply because it is a figure of authority making the request. But it is not the place of a fellow student to tell you that your clothing is immodest, no matter how amicably it is done.

    If a guy stares at you, well, eye contact and whatnot sounds like a great way to deal with it. Believe it or not, in the past my gaze has wandered and I have found myself staring at a girl before *gasp* and have received such a reaction. And I was embarrassed. Did I blame the subject of my scrutiny? No. I hoped that I hadn’t made her too uncomfortable, re-focused on my homework, and that was that.

    Anyway, I agree that this part of LDS culture is ridiculous and I think that men should stop trying to hold women to higher standards, and women in the church should stop doing so as well. Keep wearing that shirt. Don’t be ashamed.

  21. Yes, he was acting inappropriately and should not have done that. Yes, the misguided but well-intentioned note reflects double standards in LDS (and I would add American) culture. And yes, you should not be blamed for another person’s disrespectful behavior, especially when you are the victim of it.

    However, whether or not breasts have a biologically sexual function is not the issue. Breasts have been sexualized in Western culture and to expect that men, who have been socialized in a culture of pornography, should be unaffected is impractical if not impossible.

    Having said that, I’m sorry for the distress and annoyance caused by this experience.

    Side Note: For anyone looking for a balanced read on modesty in society (which is neither right-wing nor LDS-specific), I highly recommend Wendy Shalit’s A Return to Modesty: http://www.amazon.com/Return-Modesty-Discovering-Lost-Virtue/dp/0684863170

  22. First of all, I am a man, and am ashamed at some of my sexes boorish and exploitive comments to you on this post. You are a courageous woman trying to make a point, and what happens, your pic is further objectized by my caveman brothers.

    I am an advocate of a different teaching style in the LDS Church when it comes to modesty. Too much fear is taught to both sexes regarding modesty and sexual temptation and the Church is not the author of it, we as parents are doing it to the next generation. FEAR is what leads to notes like this, fear that men cannot control themselves, fear that you have to take every measure to protect yourself or else… Men can become strong enough to see their relationship with the other sex for what it truly is. Here is a great blurb on the idea, and a short and good read. You are a beautiful woman, and I hope that promotes more respect in the men around you rather than a misguided need to warn you for it.

    http://natepyle.com/seeing-a-woman/

  23. My name is Libby Mitchell and I am a producer for KSL-TV. I would love to have you on my show to talk about this blog post and the response it’s received. If you are interested, please shoot me an email, or give me a call at 801-575-5565

  24. Note: I am a male BYU student and active LDS.

    I apologize that you had to go through such an unnecessary and traumatic experience. You are a modest person and your clothing choices (which I view to be entirely appropriate not that my opinion even matters) are only a small part of that. Don’t worry what anyone thinks and says otherwise. And honestly, don’t worry too much about the immature (but probably not perverted or ill-intentioned) young man caught staring. He likely is dealing with some other shame-related issues. And for the writer(s) of the note, evidently they have progressed to the point in their dress and behavior that they are beyond reproach- and so they can focus on taking the mote out of your eye. I think but a little introspection and consideration would persuade them from doing this sort of think again.

    Really though, I would guess that all parties involved are well-intentioned and kind people. Why then does stuff like this happen? I think a problematic definition of modesty and gender is a major causal factor.

    Some relevant questions on the topic:

    -How does a man choose to be modest?
    -We are taught that a woman must cover up all cleavage, midriff, back, shoulder, thigh, chest, etc. while there is no stigma (certainly not a strong one) attached to men walking with their shirts off.
    What is so much more sacred (and forbidden) about a woman’s body than ours?
    -Does the addition of fatty tissue and mammary glands make woman’s breasts so much more destructive, sexual, and at the same time holier and more sacred than mine?
    -When I bend over and my butt crack slips out of my pants as it occasionally does, (haha I have disproportionately small butt that sometimes makes my belted pants to sag in the back) why am I not rebuked for becoming the seductor? (this word is so infrequently used in comparison to its female counterpart that it comes up as misspelled)

    I reject a hurtful definition of modesty that requires women to fret obsessively about their dress especially when men have no standard of modesty to strive for. This cultural standard of modesty is illogical and inconsistent and one that stands to be evaluated and criticized.

    I appreciate you sharing your sensitive experience with the rest of us. Again, don’t worry too much and I hope this doesn’t ruin your week- you did nothing wrong. I am sure you are a great person who has so many unique talents and attributes that are making the world around you better. It’s unfortunate that we live in a culture that strains to find anything remotely negative in others and magnify it. Thank you for not taking the blame.

  25. The way I see it is if you can wear it with your temple clothing underneath, then it’s modest but if not, you might want to try something else. 🙂 In this case, I’d probably just wear a tank top underneath so it doesn’t show cleavage and solve the problem because it’s an adorable shirt! 🙂

  26. Just a reminder to this discussion- our definition of modesty isn’t actually the definition of modesty.
    mod·est (mdst)
    adj.
    1. Having or showing a moderate estimation of one’s own talents, abilities, and value.
    2. Having or proceeding from a disinclination to call attention to oneself; retiring or diffident. See Synonyms at shy1.
    3. Observing conventional proprieties in speech, behavior, or dress.
    4. Free from showiness or ostentation; unpretentious. See Synonyms at plain.
    5. Moderate or limited in size, quantity, or range; not extreme: a modest price; a newspaper with a modest circulation.

    • Amen!
      it’s like the LDS definition of morality as chastity. Modesty & morality are much broader & more principle-based than the behaviors we routinely refer to under those terms. To be modest means that one does not draw attention to oneself in dress or appearance. I would argue that hipsters are less modest than a girl showing mild cleavage. 😉

  27. Hmmm. controlling what women wear and subjugating them. Sounds a lot like what they do in the middle east. Is that what all religion cultures teach? subjugating and controlling women?

  28. Okay, I get why that note is totally annoying BUT you have no idea where she is really coming from. My mom is a clinical therapists and works a lot with porn addicts and she says it is AMAZING and very sad what will set off these addicts. These couples come in and are trying to do better and little things– like the way women dress or act can set off a relapse pretty easily and send an entire marriage into a terrible whirlwind. To a porn addict it can literally be like dangling heroin in front of their nose. Maybe that girl had experience with this and was honestly really concerned. I’m not saying you should change your shirt or feel bad, BUT being judgmental of the girl who wrote the note and the guy isn’t right either. We don’t know what issues he is dealing with (a porn addiction for one could make it hard for him to concentrate in the library). We all could use a little understanding and love of each other (and I’m including for your situation too!). Just some thoughts from another perspective.

    • Porn addict? It really is hilarious what the Mormon’s will make up to cover the fact that a man is a PERVERT! He’s not just a “porn addict” as i assume he doesn’t just sit there looking at the pictures. He probably also performs “self love” on himself. Which every guy in the universe does at some point. But religion makes them feel guilty about. I am actually a Mormon myself. I live in Logan, Utah. So i know where this poor girl who wrote this, is coming from. I was blessed with rather big breasts. I have to wear 2 layering camisoles together if i even want to wear one. To maintain some modesty. But it really is up to you, to not be offended or distracted by other people. If someone was telling you horrible things about yourself. Would you blame them for your low self esteem, or yourself for believing them? Its not the same i know, but men really need to start taking responsibility for their own actions(and thoughts). Even if there are women who purposefully flaunt themselves in public, what are men going to do when they leave the Bubble of Utah for their missions, or college, or vacations? Are they going to implode from the visual stimulation? Or maybe they should freaking train themselves to maintain their eyesight’s modesty by looking away. What is accomplished by embarrassing a woman the way the author was? It’s disgusting really.

    • That is super sad, but again, it is not her problem. If someone has some fetish involving red fingernail polish, are all women supposed to stop painting their nails red? I agree that we should not dress provocatively, but even if she did / does trigger such a thing, it is *not her fault* and that is the author’s point. Some people also like to blame the porn addict’s wife when he has a setback, but as much as we should have compassion and help those addicted, this kind of shaming is absolutely inappropriate.

  29. I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned this (I stopped reading the comments when people started being rude), but I just wanted to mention that I’m glad you’ll still wear that shirt. I figure if you can wear a piece of clothing that would cover garments (which that shirt most definitely fits the bill), then it’s modest enough to not “force” a man into “temptation.” I’m a firm believer of modesty, but I’m also a big believer of tact and self control (which unfortunately, you didn’t receive). Keep up the good work; I think sometimes LDS girls need to be reminded that, although modesty is important, they shouldn’t feel shamed for wearing something a little more attractive than a guinea sack. 🙂

  30. Why is the Provo culture intent on returning to puritanical standards? I would off myself if all girls were made to dress like the mormon tabernacle choir. I for one am in favor of more slinky vixens

  31. Perhaps a reply note should be written.

    Dear Cute BOY,

    I have seen you at the Library before and (first off I’m not trying to be creepy, Just a nice friend) you where [sic] THOSE BLUE JEANS a lot (which By the way the color looks really good) however I notice that its [sic] a little TIGHT IN THE CROTCH. The girl sitting in front of you a table away keeps Looking (Just thought I would warn you). I hope you take care and help the GIRLS around Here out in the future. So they don’t have the temptation.

    Sincerly [sic], a friend looking out for you and the GIRLS

    Women seem to be able to avoid looking at/ ogling/ starting/ giggling about a guys “package” when they wear tight pants. Really how is that any different. It’s about self control. If you find yourself looking at anyone(male or female) inappropriately it’s up to you to look away and refocus your thoughts, whether they are wearing a swimsuit or a parka

  32. Maybe there is more to this than what you are seeing. Recently my husband & I went to see a movie. We were in the parking lot walking toward some stairs and there was this darling high school age couple walking along holding hands and talking. The girl was wearing a full skirt, a little on the short side but not drastically so. All of a sudden, a slight breeze came up and gently and slowly lifted the back of her skirt to where her entire panties were visible to those of us still in the parking lot. Mind you, the skirt was not obscenely short and I’m sure she had no idea what others had seen. I pulled her aside when I had a chance to tell her which she could have interrupted as being none of my business. But I would hope that someone would tell me if my shirt button was open, or if my neckline gaped when I was busy studying… not that that is necessarily what happened in your situation but perhaps entertaining an open mind to what others summon the courage to say to us is a good thing.

  33. Thank you for this article. Issues like modesty and rape are not just women’s issues. In fact I would say they are primarily men’s issues. There will always be something inappropriate in the world. You can go around closing your eyes so you can’t see anything, or you can work on your thoughts and behavior. This shaming needs to stop.

  34. This makes me think of the experiences I’ve had traveling to Saudi Arabia. Religion can cause some strange things to happen culturally. Because they are so ultra-conservative in Saudi, the women are required to cover up, head-to-toe, in black clothing. It’s absurd, especially when you consider how hot it must be under there in the middle of summer. But, what really catches my attention is how the men all ogle the flight attendants in the airport (Foreign flight attendants don’t wear the abaya when heading to/from work.) It’s as if they’ve never seen a woman in public. Oh, wait, they haven’t! They only see shapeless black ghosts walking around. So, when they see a woman who is wearing clothing that shows off her shape, they ALL look. If all the women dressed “normally,” these guys probably wouldn’t so much as turn at head, well, except that FAs tend to be quite good looking. Perhaps BYU has some of this same dynamic. Because “modesty” is focused on SO much, the guy in the library who sees a girl with a nice shirt is turned on. He should go home an repent immediately. In Saudi, wearing such clothing would be a serious offence. Really, the religious police would want to speak to you…
    I think the bigger issue is people being uncomfortable with sexuality. And LDS culture is GREAT at making people uncomfortable with how they handle sexual thoughts. Do nice breasts catch a guys attention. Yes, they do. Is that a bad thing? I guess it depends on what you think is sinful/lusful or normal… But, fact is women have breasts, and I for one am glad they do. 🙂

  35. I wholeheartedly believe in a Mormon article of faith that stays: … we believe that all me will be punished for their own sins … We all must respond for our own decisions, it is called agency and personal responsibility. Ultimately nobody makes nobody do anything, we choose to do anything and everything, even when faced with the so called “temptation”, therefore “temptation” is no excuse for poor choices, nothing is, other than our own weakness, and thats why we are to change and improve every day, therefore the need of repentance (change) and a Saviour. As to this particular case? intent is only known to God therefore we don’t know neither of these two people’s intent, was he staring at her breasts? or was he staring to the memory of his recently deceased sister who looked so much like this lady and wore that same tshirt the day she passed away? (again fictitious but you catch my groove I hope, meaning we will NEVER know the intent of anyone’s heart, only God does) Did she wear that tshirt in purpose to “get a little attention”? or did she wear it because mom gave it to her? (again only God would know the answer to that regardless of what anyone would even say in public) Because we can’t know intent, the Hymn reads: Who am I to judge another? when I walk imperfectly. In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see …
    We should all just take a step aback and look at our own personal responsibility and voila! its a personal matter. Was the tshirt not appropriate? only she and God would know that and she is responsible TO god for it not to anyone else. Was he having impure thoughts? only he and God know that and he is responsible TO God for it.
    A little dose of personal responsibility might helps us all …

  36. Though I don’t believe that the guy staring at you is innocent, I don’t think you are either. The fact is that your shirt is revealing, it is against the honor code, and you shouldn’t be wearing it. Don’t let your pride get in the way of receiving criticism.

      • First off, the author has signed to not wear revealing clothing. Second, I don’t think the guy is innocent, but he’s not reading this comment so I don’t want to talk about him.

    • She’s not revealing anything. That’s a normal looking shirt. I didn’t go to BYU, so I looked up the Honor Code, to see what it says. What I see is an organization imposing on people’s free agency – many of which are focused on a person’s self – clothing, hair, skin, speech. BYU, through this honor code, is taking control of people’s choices. People need an education to have decent career prospects. There are plenty of parents out there who want their child to go to BYU for various reasons, be they tradition, to “clean up,” etc. And, they will perhaps incentivize this by saying they will only pay for schooling at BYU. The financial hardships of going somewhere else could make BYU very appealing in that sense, especially to an 18-year old who has little in the way of life experience, and may lack the ability to push back. So, they hand over their freedom to choose what the wear in exchange for an education. Note that even if they are happy to follow the guidelines, they have still surrendered their freedom to choose.
      This Honor Code is a bit like Sharia Law. Parts of it are based upon cultural context. Who decided that beards were bad? What does “revealing clothing” mean? I don’t think you’ll find it in any of the scriptures. It uses the stick of not being able to take a test, not graduate, etc. to get people to conform. This is manipulation.
      This code includes aspects that have no bearing on someone’s ability to be a member of the church. The requirement to be clean shaven? I guess Brigham Young wouldn’t be able to take a test in the school that bears his name. Tight clothing? I wonder if the BYU football team gets a special exception for the pants they wear during games.
      It is time this “code of conformity” be called into question. Does it promote greater education on campus? I think not. Does it cause people to give their free choice over to some authority figure? Absolutely. Should a person’s choice of clothing, hair and grooming be controlled by someone else? Absolutely not. In fact, there are extremely few aspects of an adult’s life that should be controlled by anyone other than that adult.

      • Women aren’t the only focus of modesty in the church. Those who believe that are believing a huge lie. Please stop perpetuating this. The only difference is that guys, in general, don’t try to dress in revealing outfits to try to attract the opposite sex.

  37. I should be saying this because I also wear low cut shirts but I remember correctly in young women’s that shirts that hit below your sternum were immodest. Like I said I don’t follow that “rule” and I’m pretty sure it’s hard to find cute shirts that we women feel comfortable in that are above the sternum. It’s just the durection fashion and everything else is heading.

  38. i’m amazed out how much people care about this. people are free to dress how they would like and they are also free to feel the way they choose to feel. if a person chooses to dress “immodestly” by one’s standards (or mormon standards), so be it. if a person chooses to have impure thoughts, so be it. it’s more important to focus on being a good person than preoccupying oneself with what you wear.

  39. Why can’t a guy check out a girl without being labeled a perv?!

    It’s ridiculous how any sort of sexuality is shunned in this culture.

  40. I think you are grossly over-reacting and over-generalizing. Throughout the article you continually lump all men together and you are reading into the note what is simply not there. I did not see anywhere in the note where it asked you to go home and change. I did not see anywhere in the note where it stated that the shirt was inappropriate. The note may have been simply stating that you were being stared at and attempting to warn you so that you don’t have any future issues.

    Given the author’s obvious difficulty in spelling, grammar, and penmanship, I find it highly likely that they also lacked the capacity to fully express their concern for you. They may have noticed you bending over the table to pick up a book and thus allowing the perpetrator a view down your shirt and wanted to let you know about it so you could take steps to avoid being a victim of voyeurism. They may have intended something as simple as placing your hand over the lowest part of the shirt when you bend over.

    I find that most people are motivated by a genuine concern for their fellow beings. In reading this note, I think you took offense where none was intended. You could have taken the note at face value and thought about how caring and concerned people are. Instead, you chose to read into it negative intentions and used it to represent and support the negative preconceptions you have grown to believe.

    In this life, we have many important decisions to make. One of them is to choose if we will look for the good in the world or if we will look for the evil in the world. Whichever one we look for, we will find. I choose to continually look for the good in the world. It makes this journey through life a whole lot more pleasant.

  41. Blaming the female for tempting men: it’s an age-old strategy men use to shift blame and responsibility for their actions onto females.

    And that logic is still alive and well, as several of the comments about this essay reveal. I stand all amazed at the high number of comments here that try to deflect blame back on the women.

    If the guy’s a porn addict, that’s his problem to solve — it’s not the woman’s responsibility to babysit him and his moral development. The women around him shouldn’t have to dress like nuns in order to prevent him from lusting after them.

    To the Author: the way you were dressed falls well within the requirements of the honor code/dress standards, and people here who continue to suggest you were partially at fault are forgetting that fact.

    The Author wasn’t wearing a top that would suddenly reveal her bra-covered breasts with a sudden gust of wind. Drawing a parallel between a modestly-dressed girl pulling a Marilyn Monroe and having her dress fly up in a gust of wind is a false parallel to a woman sitting in a library in her dress code-appropriate top.

    This argument that “men are programmed to lust; therefore, women must always dress in such a way as not to trigger that lust” is absurd — particularly in the context of an experience where the woman was dressed in accordance with BYU’s standards. The result of this thinking is that 1) woman are still responsible for the way men respond to them, and 2) women should not just obey the dress code but go beyond the dress code by wearing clothing more conservative than the rules dictate.

    I read the note, and I don’t think the author is remotely misinterpreting the dynamic here. It’s really simple: a guy was staring at her breasts, she was wearing clothing conducive to the honor code, and a student noticed the guy staring at her. The student gave HER a note (not HIM) telling her that her neckline was too low and suggesting she wear something different in order to protect the men from being tempted. Her response to this isn’t “over-reacting” or a person who is constantly looking “for evil in the world.” Her reaction is spot on.

    This has been mentioned already, but it bears reiteration: this strategy of blaming the women for the actions of men has a long history:

    Rapists use this logic to defend themselves “She really wanted it. I know she did, because of the way she dressed. I knew she meant ‘yes,’ when she was saying, ‘no.’ I’m not to blame.”

    Many societies around the world have this logic: if a woman is raped, she’s still a shame to the family, and she still risks being murdered — by her own family, no less. Honor Killings. Rape victims are not only blamed, they’re destroyed.

    What amazing rationalizations and B.S. some of the comments reveal. Stunning. Truly stunning.

  42. Whoever wrote this note needs to seriously consider worrying more about their penmanship than the chosen dress of their peers. Good hell, man. You’re in college. Work on writing a legible paragraph in English, then we’ll talk about how others are dressing.

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