Faux Chastity

2012-09-28 – The Amtrak route between La Crosse, WI and Chicago is well traveled by Amish. I don’t know about other Amtrak routes, but this one is and it was particularly true today. The women in the long dresses and caps. The men with beards and hats and suspenders. Home tailored. All very modest. Or is it?

A boy and a girl in Amish clothes sat behind me. I say boy and girl because they appeared to be around my sons’ ages. Teens, early 20s. But I’m guessing that this couple was married. I’m guessing this because they were knecking (which is my faux Amish word for snuggling). It surprised me.

Don’t know why it should. There’s always a load of Amish children of all ages on the train. They come from somewhere. But we see the severe clothes and sex is the furthest thing from our mind. It is apparently not very far from theirs.

Back home in Chicago, my neighborhood is filled with a diverse mix of religious Jews and Muslims who similarly dress for chastity but seem to have no problem filling the preschools. They tell us how modest they are, but their actions prove they are little different from mainstream American society. They love sex and they do it all the time.

Once in the shoe department local Target I chanced to see two young burqa’ed women modeling sexy shoes for each other and laughing the laugh that is recognized internationally. And I know from experience myself as a former yeshivah boy (student in a Jewish religious academy) the effect that the nuances of the “modest” dress of the Orthodox girls had on us. Anything can be a signal of sexual interest: the cut of cloth, the shoes, a hint.

Cognitive scientists tell us that our brains process negative statements in two steps: first is the positive thought and second is the negation. So “no sex” is processed as “sex” and then “no.” So all this anti-sex folderol is really a covert and guilt-free way to think about sex.

Birds do it. Bees do it.

So, when you see the shapeless and “chaste” clothing of our religious neighbor, you are not turned on, but members of the community apparently are. We don’t see it in ourselves. We see high fashion and sexy clothes. They see the very same thing.

Remember, Western society had similar habits of dress not many years ago. And folks then had the same thoughts about prior generations. As Cole Porter wrote in the 1934 musical:

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, Heaven knows,
Anything Goes.

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