Modesty in Dress

Gray_Nikon camera_2012-09-03

2013-11-21 – I am a closet nudist. I don’t mean a literal closet here. If you looked into my literal closet you’d think I am a literal nudist. There are no clothes in my literal closet. (We removed the closet organizers to paint and haven’t replaced them yet. The clothes are in the basement.)

What I mean by saying I am a closet nudist is that, my nudity is hidden. Underneath my clothes I am completely naked. I think this is true about most people. If I am in a room with a person I am attracted to, we are naked together under our respective (and respectful) clothes.

There are a number of religious groups that fail to understand this. They think that they can erase their sexuality by “dressing modestly,” which usually entails many layers of clothing. There is no one religion that does this. Fundamentalists of every stripe (I almost typed “strip”) seem to think this way.

I don’t get it. There are clothed people who I find enormously attractive and naked people who I would turn away from. Clothes can be an attractive signal just as much or more than bare skin. Heck, my mouth begins to water at the sight of a candy bar wrapper. I know that the wrapper can be removed.

I once lived in a religious community where modest dress was the norm: a yeshiva (Jewish seminary) in Jerusalem. All the boys there knew without a shadow of doubt who at the neighboring girls school was hot and who was not. In spite of their layers of clothing. I’m sure this is true in other religious communities as well.

You really see this in the constant change in fashion. What’s in today is sexy. What was in yesterday is dowdy. What your sister wears is dangerous. (“Get into something more presentable!”) What your mother wears is dull. It’s not in the clothes. Moms and dads don’t think it’s dull. It’s how you are conditioned to react. Cole Porter wrote about this in 1934:

In olden days a glimpse of stockings / Was looked on as something shocking / Now heaven knows / Anything goes!

But now, anything went! Clothes from that era are now seen as depressing.

Now, I am not advocating public nudity (well, not too much). It sometimes gets friggin’ frigid in Chicago. Winter is coming and you bet that I have my parka out of the closet. And so does most everyone else here in Chicago. And you know what? During our Chicago winters, most everyone here is just as covered up as a Muslim woman in a burka.

But you can still tell. We’re made to tell. Clothing or not.

The sad truth is that over the last couple of decades, many of the folks who have been insisting on modest dress seem not to have suppressed their urges—say, to molesting little children. Again, this is not restricted to one religion. And sure, there are child molesters who make no pretense of modest dress. I’m just saying that the modest dress doesn’t seem to be effective for its stated purpose.

It ain’t modesty! They may say it. Some earnest people may believe it. But it ain’t modesty! So what is it?

Group identification. You know who is in and out at a glance. It doesn’t prevent hookups per se. It prevents hookups outside the group. Those on the inside recognize what’s sexy. Those on the outside don’t. Is this a problem? Not in itself. Not unless there is coercion. But you and I know that there’s plenty of coercion.

And you know, we focus on the clothes. There’s always talking to a person.  But I guess they try to stop that, too. Doesn’t work either.

One response to “Modesty in Dress

  1. Pingback: Nike. Nike. Nike. . . . Oh, God! Oh, God! Oooh, Gahhh! | Eightoh9·

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