How to Be Immodest About Modesty

Oh boy, today we’re finally going to go visit my sister, whom I haven’t seen in years!  I haven’t even met all of her kids!  I may or may not be online, so I’m counting on all of you to back me up, because today I’m talking about three ways to fool yourself into thinking you love chastity when really all you’re doing is talking about sex alllllll the time.  Bonus:  I mention Dressing With Dignity.  (I’m working on a book review but am having a  really. Hard. Time. Reading. The whole. Thing.  For some reason.


  1. Oh, I am so looking forward to your review of Dressing with Dignity. Please do finish the book, because I am laughing already in anticipation of the Simcha send-up of her exhortations to dress like a Marian apparition and steer clear of those mustachio-twirling Masons.

  2. I understand why you are having a hard time reading the book. I’m reading it now – can I blame you for that? Only kidding.

    I made it to page 15 and wondered why the book irritated me so much. Flipping back through what I’d read, I realized it was the tone and all the exclamation points. Out of 94 pages (which includes the intro but excludes the bibliography, notes and everything after page 108), I circled 170 exclamation points. A little excessive!!! Then there’s some of the content. I’ll leave that part to you.

    Can’t wait to read your review.

  3. Here is part of my comment at the Register piece:

    “[T]here seems to be no way to talk about how *other people* can be modest without most of the people doing the discussing shaving a bit too close to one kind of sin or another: pride/false humility, judgementalism/Phariseeism, scrupulosity and obsessive thinking, and a whole host of other run-of-the-mill cultural sins like victim-blaming for rape, and sexism, and being ignorant of ones true place in history.
    So I have come to believe that you can’t easily talk about modesty in specific terms without it being sheltered by a special relationship, and outside of that you can only speak verrrry generally, as in the philosophical inquiry into the virtue, and *not* in terms of “What NOT to wear.”
    Discussing “What should I, or we, wear” is, in my opinion, best a conversation for parents and children, for a spiritual advisor and advisee, or a group of peers who are soberly seeking to do good, gossip-free and of the same gender. Every true virtue springs from within. Certain norms or disciplines can help nurture a virtue, certainly, which is why we have parental guidance and, later, traditional kinds of clothing for people to choose if they need more structure in understanding modest dress. (That long skirt phase so many of us earnest Catholic wives seem to go through is a good example.) ”

    Also, I neglected to mention one of the common sins that you are talking about, Simcha, which is the puritanical fascination with sex, in which we indulge by talking about abstaining,

    Whenever the subject comes up in Catholic circles so many people seem invested in defending modesty, as if that virtue itself is in question. As if the virtue would cease to exist without us talking about how to show everyone we have it. ANd as if it is all about covering up a percentage of your skin so you will not be an object of lust. Which the virtue most assuredly is not.

    This is my real problem with talking about modesty so much:

    “The discussion nearly always becomes about somebody else’s body, or somebody else’s relationship with Christ/the Church/their self-esteem. Many women feel deeply the inherent imbalance in modesty discussions from time immemorial: that is, that women bear a greater burden for the collective sexual behavior of the human race. Specifically, a greater burden of guilt for the collective sexual sins.”

    Yeah, I have a huge problem with this being the message. And it so often is. Instead of being *real* catechesis that spakes about why we do our best to reflect, in the flesh, our spiritual dignity, and to avoid diminishing it and that of others, we get treatises on how many inches from the knee shorts must be in order to avoid arousing a man.

    • Corita, this was a really excellent comment, and sums up so much of what I wanted to say. Thank you.

      I found it so unbelievably frustrating that people kept arguing that modesty WAS important, when I had said as much, in so many words, several times, in each post. Sometimes even in bold print. Ugh, it was as if I wrote a post about anorexia, and people were horrified that I was such a fan of morbid obesity.

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