Rape has been all over the news and social media this week. And rightly so – because it’s an issue that is often thrown under the proverbial bus in both popular and Christian culture.

You have probably heard and read all the arguments already. You’ve seen the posts going around Facebook about how rapists are the ones at fault for their acts. Of course they are.

But then I see comments that also emphasize how our culture is immodest, and women flaunt their stuff and tease men and then expect them to behave.

I hear people talk about how modesty should be brought back, and that women can be a stumbling block in the way they dress and act.

I don’t mean to point the finger at people who say these things. I understand where the arguments are coming from. I’ve heard them all at least a thousand times in churches and discussions over the years.

So today I want to ask some questions about these philosophies and how they relate to rape, our culture, and our personal actions.

I want to call baloney on a few of these widely held ideas about modesty and lust. And I want to talk about rape – sexual and spiritual rape.

Modesty and Stumbling Blocks

Modesty is defined by culture

Just Google “immodesty is a stumbling block” and you will get a plethora of Christian articles that tell how women who wear certain styles of clothes and act in certain ways can cause other men in Christ to sin.

The idea of someone being a stumbling block comes from Romans 14 in which Paul is explaining that not everyone in their new fellowship is used to the same holidays and food laws -in fact some didn’t find certain pagan festivals to be problematic. And some refrained from eating meat while others freely ate.

The only applicable principle I can find that relates to modesty is this:

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Ok so the idea is that we don’t want to cause a fellow believer to go against what he feels is sin. That is the basic idea, and Paul states it as such:

The faith that you have [that eating meat or celebrating pagan holidays is "clean"], keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

If I feel it is ok to drink wine or alcohol, but you don’t – then drinking it purposefully in front of you and trying to persuade you to drink also would be creating a stumbling block. You are not convinced in your own mind and by the Spirit that alcohol is ok.

But here’s the thing. We all know that lust, adultery, and rape are wrong.

How can I create a stumbling block in your walk with the Lord? You already have a problem with lust. In fact, if you are someone that goes around pointing out who is dressed immodest or not it would seem that you are passing judgement on other believers rather than focusing on your own struggle.

Let me just say one thing clear here. A woman maybe be the trigger for your lustful actions, but she is never the CAUSE.

Does that mean that Christian women can dress however they want? Well – yes and no.

  • I do not dress modestly for the sake of lustful men. I do it because I realize my worth in Christ. And modesty in the Bible is addressed in this way – it is never about preventing the evil actions of another.
  • Lust means different things in different cultures. I have the freedom and individuality in Christ to come to a place of comfort about my sexuality and how I present it. A man could lust after exposed feet, or long hair, or seeing a woman putting on chapstick. I cannot control the lust of others.
  • Bottom line – I don’t live to please you. Sorry.  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. (Col 3:23)

Physical and Spiritual Rape

I find it very fitting that this week just happens to be Spiritual Abuse Awareness week.

I have written about spiritual abuse before – here and here.

What connects that to the topic of modesty and rape? Well – rape is about power. Rape is a form of sexual abuse in which one person, either by force or otherwise without informed consent, performs sex acts on another human being.

There are other forms of abuse such as child abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse of course, and also spiritual abuse.

Many times the forms of abuse overlap each other. But the main factor in most abuse is that the abuser takes away the free will and choice of the abused in some way.

So in a way, rape and spiritual abuse are similar.

Victims of both forms of abuse are often confused and mislead to believe that they somehow could have prevented what happened. Society looks at them as if they mysteriously wanted what they got – or at least put themselves in a situation to expect the results.

Some blame the culture in which it happens.

As far as rape “culture” goes, people have been bought and sold as sex slaves, married off at young ages, and raped for as long as recorded history.

And as for Christians who claim modesty is at an all-time low – we have nothing on the Romans or Greeks.

Rape and abuse happened in the 1950′s BC and 1950′s AD people. It just wasn’t reported and plastered all over the internet. It was taboo and it was considered partially the victim’s fault.

But let’s get back to the idea that rape, and spiritual abuse, is about power and not modesty.

If our immodest, rapey culture is due to women and girls being sexualized then I have some questions:

What about men who are raped? What about immodest men?

I know at least two men who were raped. One was taken advantage of by a woman, and the other by another man.

None of the articles you Google will probably mention men being immodest. There are times when I felt that a man was “dressing to get attention” or acting very flirty and forward – even at Christian gatherings. Why do men get a trump card on immodesty?

What about children who are raped? Did they ask for it?

I was raped as a child – by several different offenders at different times. I was raped by both men and women. Did I somehow become a stumbling block as a child and create lust in those people? You may think that is an absurd question – but men lust after children all the time.

A lot of modesty policies and sermons that I’ve heard are based on the ideas stated above – that women can prevent lust by dressing modestly, that men can’t keep a straight mind when there happens to be a little cleavage in the room, and that we can somehow prevent sin by how we dress and act. Women live in fear of causing stumbling blocks, and men live in fear of seeing something that will cause them to stumble.

You know that meme that says “Saying you’re a Christian because you go to church is like saying you’re a mechanic because you stand in a garage”?

Well – trying to prevent rape and lust by dressing modestly is like trying to prevent gluttony by duct-taping your fridge closed.

I think it is borderline spiritual abuse (and full-on leadership abuse in some cases) to create this fear in men and women over modesty and lust. Instead of pointing them to Christ, our worth in Him, and our victory over sin, it focuses on behavior and pleasing man-defined terms.

Final thoughts

People who believe that we can somehow stop lust are the same people who will agree that banning guns won’t stop evil people from obtaining them and murdering.

It’s the same argument. We can’t stop lust and rape by tightening up our shirts and wearing a hijab. Just look at the number of women who get raped in Muslim cultures.

The only person to blame for rape is the rapist.

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10 Responses to Who is to blame? Our immodest rape culture.

  1. Missy says:

    Excellent post. Thanks so much. It’s a thing I’ve been trying to put my finger on but couldn’t quite articulate. Thank you.

  2. Carma Paden says:

    “A man could lust after exposed feet, or long hair, or seeing a woman putting on chapstick. I cannot control the lust of others.” SO TRUE! Men (and women) can lust from the strangest things sometimes! And lust and rape are not remotely the same thing. Lust is desire, and rape is power. Dressing immodestly may (or may not) affect another person’s sexual lust, but it doesn’t affect the lust for power, which is what rape is all about.

    • Over here in Korea, it is considered immodest to show shoulders. But having the shortest skirts imaginable is normal. I find the short skirts distracting, especially on the subway! I think modesty is more about treating your own body with respect, not about culture’s standards.

  3. Vanessa Pruitt says:

    This is great. I hate to bring it it, but this goes hand and hand with breastfeeding. Women are told they should cover up or they might “cause” a man to lust after them. First off, I am not the cause of anyone’s lust. That’s THEIR sin. I have my own, THANKYOUVERYMUCH. I have always compared breastfeeding in public to causing men to lust as equivalent to telling women they can’t wear flip flops to walmart or they might make a man lust after their feet. Really? Feet, breastfeeding, both normal things. What needs to happen is the normalization of the natural use for body parts, and we need to stop *as a culture* the objectifying of women’s bodies, both by telling them what is or is not attractive on their bodies and by telling them what to do with their bodies.

  4. Jamie says:

    Aadel, talk about hitting the nail on the head! I love the part about how we as women should dress modestly because we realize our worth in Christ. I think the lie that Christian girls often hear about immodesty cause men to lust and therefor rape is what prevents so many women from seeking help after a rape.

  5. Marianne @ Abundant Life says:

    Excellent post!

  6. Daniel says:

    Aadel, this is a great post. I get so irritated with people constantly using Romans 14 to support the “stumbling block” argument. If you ask me, I think these modesty teachings are the real stumbling block because they prevent people from knowing Jesus because they constantly have to keep following rules to micromanage another man’s lust. Jesus has very strong words for those who try to prevent people from knowing him:

    “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” -Mark 9:42 (which is ironically another “stumbling block” support passage)

  7. jane says:

    I think this is wrong. You don’t think the constant images we are bombarded in the media with women in various states of undress are saturating our minds with sex? I cxan say that in Europe men are not so sexually obsessed since they have healthier views of sexuality. In the United States, street harassment is commonplace. WHy do you think this is? When men spend billions of dollars a year to see a naked breast, you don’t think the sight of your nudity won’t trigger lustful thoughts? Men struggle with pornography. Why enhance his struggle. Do people spend billions to indulge foot fetishes.

    As women we need to be responsible with our choices. I dress modestly and still attract a lot of sexual attention from men, but I don’t indulge it. I cannot imagine how much more I would be subjected to if I ran around with deep cleavage or accentuating my T & A. Seriously, when you dress with all your parts hanging out, do you really think men are taking you seriously or have they reduced you in their minds to toys?

    Consider women in strip clubs who give lap dances with their T&A showing. Would their tease be as effective if they were wearing sweats and/or jeans? Exposing your private areas triggers lustful thoughts in men. How could it not….

    And if you know men are so visually stimulated anyway, why do you need to compound the stimulation by exposing your breasts and/or wearing tights pants that leave little to the imagination?

    You women need to employ some common sense. Read up on what men think when women expose their cleavage? They devalue and objectify the woman. Some men who are driven by base instincts have their own struggles…but hopefully you can dismiss such pathetic creatures.

    As a woman, when I see a woman dressed immodestly, I feel embarrassed for her and as a woman. I feel she has cheapened her femininity and reduced herself to an object for human consumption.

    Women, we need to take responsibilty for how we represent ourselves. If women had more self respect and stopped allowing posting selfies of crotches and our breasts and reducing ourselves to cheap thrills under some misguided notions that these displays make us seem desirable instead of desperate and cheap, men might respect us more.

    As it stands, men think women are always gagging for sex since that is what is communicated in the media, with women always placing their bodies on display for conspicious consumption, with “side boobs,” “@sses” on full display minus a g-string, deep cleavage, tight pants that reveal every nip and crany.

    News flash: no one wants to see your private areas but a degenerate. Do you really want your son’s friends, your neighbors, your postman, your boss, your colleagues to look down your blouse or to imagine you naked and flat on your back? What do you get out of that? Power? Some will reduce you to that no matter what, but why reduce yourself to that and willfully conspire in your own objectification.

    Women have a hard enough time being taken seriously as it is….Women, respect yourselves.

    As for who’s to blame. Women and men. Men need to discipline themselves. Women need to engage men and themselves with respect and teach them how to treat them. I personally don’t have high regard for women who display cleavage and think any woman who must advertise her breasts in public for attention or to feel feminine must be desperate and/or immoral and debased.

    Amazing that I can dress modestly and appropriately and still attract a high level of interest. Why do I need to display my breasts or reduce myself to a walking porno billboard? Why would I want a man I don’t know getting a good glimpse of parts of my body I only want to share with my husband?

    Another news flash: men feel uncomfortable around immodest women. They don’t need all the excess stimulation. It feels like sexual assault to have women exposing themselves all the time. THey also make fun of women who expose themselves. When women expose their cleavage, men don’t think “oh how feminine/pretty she is.” They think “tits,” “boobies” and laugh at her.

    I have been in offices where women’s breasts and cleavage are displayed on TV. The men don’t speak in admiration, but discomfort…and ask why the woman feels a need to expose herself…then they talk about her parts as if she were an object there to provide a sexually stimulant/drug to them, someone against whom they could relieve themselves.

    Women who don’t understand male psychology and who think exposing their bodies like a tart is their right are really rather pathetic, irresponsible, and inferior. No classy woman or woman of stature, substance, value represents herself in that way.

    • I just want to ask – where in my post did you see where I was encouraging women to expose their bodies? Where did you see (in writing or in pictures) that I was exposing my cleavage like a “tart”?

      My whole point was that no matter how women dress, men will still have lust. Specifically, I said: “I do not dress modestly for the sake of lustful men. I do it because I realize my worth in Christ. And modesty in the Bible is addressed in this way – it is never about preventing the evil actions of another.”

      Nowhere did I dismiss modesty. I simply tied modesty to the idea of our worth in Christ rather than preventing sin. Our sex-crazed culture is the same as the Roman sex-crazed culture.

      My post was mainly pointing out the fallacy that modesty can “cure” rape. And that instead of calling names and slut-shaming women, we need to show them how much they are worth in the eyes of God so they treat their bodies with respect.

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