On Immodesty: Too Much Skin (At Church and Elsewhere)?

My buddy Rhett’s written on a provocative topic, what do we do about immodesty in the church? This is pressing for him and I since we are both now father’s of beautiful little girls.  He writes:

No matter what we as parents do I know there will always be that cultural peer pressure on my daughter to do something different. But in the midst of that pressure I hope that we can convey the message of the importance of modesty, and that showing skin is not what she should value or want approval from others for. Doesn’t get easier for parents when teen stars provide much of the cultural peer pressure (i.e. Hannah Montana).

Certainly both men and women are influenced by cultural expectations on how we look, what it means to be successful, what makes someone cool enough to welcome into your group, etc, but what do we do about it?  What have you done, or seen done that’s been helpful in addressing this issue for both genders? I do not think this is a female-only issue. Some church cultures have been more successful than others in promoting modesty. We do not have too much of a show of skin on Sunday mornings at our Mennonite church, but there still is still the occasion. Of course, this doesn’t address the other issues that may be bubbling under the surface in these groups either. But it is an issue that the church in general faces regularly, I remember this conversation coming up about once a semester when I was in undergrad. So, what do we do about the very basic assumptions that fuel these outward practices?

Rhett quotes Annie Jackson, an author and blogger, who says:


–there is a female feature we call breasts. they can also be referred to as “boobies,??? or “the twins,??? or “the rack,??? or “jugs,??? so on, so forth.

–most men find this particular feature interesting. tempting. and amazing.

–upon catching a glimpse of said feature (regardless of how much is actually exposed), it is likely for a man’s mind to go to places it shouldn’t.

–with above knowledge, women, you now are educated and have no excuse.



But my part of my point is why? Why should we use wisdom when we dress ourselves? Why should men or women care that they are now educated and have no excuse? Isn’t this appealing to something other than what is really stated here? Can we expect someone who walks into the church for the very first time next week to believe they should dress differently because God wants them to? Or conversely, should the church have any expectations at all about dress? Now of course, I agree with Annie’s point and her conclusions [that we all should use wisdom when it comes to dress – it’s just a matter of what kind of wisdom we’re talking about here], ((Edited in later)) I just want to get at my question: what do we do about the “something other,” what do we appeal to? Or who? And how do make the appeal? 

Of course for me, and many of us, the question turns on our faith and our understanding of what God wants for us. But this understanding cannot be uprooted from the culture we currently live in, a culture that is dominated by celebrity glam, high fashion, and sexuality. When I was youth pastoring I found it increasingly difficult to convince a junior highschool girl that she should want what God wants for her over against what will help her to actually have friends and survive the terrors of jr. highschool. And it was equally difficult to teach the boys similar truths about how they ought to treat girls, respect them and not make dirty jokes, etc: “why can’t I, when everyone else is doing it!” 

And all this doesn’t really even get to the reality that immodesty ((In a comment to Sonja below I state: “I think you’re right – isn’t even the ideas of modesty and immodesty an oppressive binary? The wrong thing to begin or end with? Something we treat as though it’s a universal, but is really thoroughly rooted in subjectivity? A subjectivity that is often used to keep people out, rather than in.”)) is only a symptom of something else: a distaste, on the one hand, an inflated ego, on the other, for one’s self. Love of self, or distaste for oneself can come in many forms, and many people struggle with this who never dress in a way as to attract (or distract) attention to/from themselves.  

I’m not saying any of this is okay, from my perspective it isn’t, but it is really difficult and I think it involves more than just knowing about how it affects others. It sort of feels like swimming up stream. So, as L grows up in an age where I am sure immodesty will be just as cool as it is now, I start to wonder what it is we do now when she’s still young that can help her care about how she (does not) dress, how she carries herself, and how she thinks of herself. And the same would go if/when we have a son.

Any thoughts on this? What have you seen that’s been helpful, or not so helpful when dealing with boys and girls/ men and woman on this issue?

56 responses to “On Immodesty: Too Much Skin (At Church and Elsewhere)?”

  1. Hey Wess – I generally get pretty upset when the church discusses female modesty, so I appreciate the nuance and compassionate tone of your post. In college, I spent a week at a camp where I participated in a small group bible study of the book of Mark. We studied the passage, “Do not lead your brothers into sin.” After discussing this, the leader of the study stated that this passage was the reason women were not allowed to wear two piece bathing suits while at the camp. I was very upset with this reasoning and I doubt that Mark intended this interpretation of the passage when it was originally penned. Christianity has a very long history of shaming women’s sexuality (sexuality in general). I don’t believe the church has a place in demanding that women should dress a certain way. My thoughts aren’t fully developed on that, so I’m sure the theologically minded can go into that in more detail.
    I mainly wanted to write about my relationship with my younger sister. My sister is 7 years younger than me. 7 years may not seem like a lot of time, but I was very surprised by how different youth culture is than when I was a teenager (8 years ago.) My sister was part of a young group in high school and she had a group of very close friends to support and love her. My parents are also very loving and supportive – she has a particularly close relationship with my dad. I feel that she embraced a value of modesty without even knowing it. It wasn’t pushed upon her to dress modestly, but she was able to cultivate it in a loving and accepting environment. More than anything, I think children will learn a lot if they grow up in a community that models healthy values. It may be good to think about modesty as part of a larger value – loving oneself and rejoicing in the gift God gives us as bodily people.

    What the heck…I don’t even have kids, so I may be WAY off or totally idealistic. =) Who am I to write about the best way to raise a kid? I’m sure you and Emily will model so many of the values mentioned above…it’s a real honor to see you parent. Thanks for the post.

    • "I don't believe the church has a place in demanding that women should dress a certain way."

      The church not only has the right but the obligation to demand that women dress in a fashion that is not offensive to fellow brothers and visitors! When did the "church" become a nudist colony? Al I see are so called "leaders" at least in my southern Baptist church exposing their breast and wearing miniskirts! It is an absolute shame the lack of reverence for God and others in the evangelical church! ICHABOD!

  2. Great post Wess, and as the father of a 12 year old girl, the issue is a live one. My wife and I have talked with P about these things and about how boys think and behave etc. but the pressure on her is still there. We have also tried to talk in terms of appropriateness and inappropriateness.

    I remember preaching in a Brethren congregation a number of years ago which has a thriving ministry with teens, though, conservative enough to require the women to wear head coverings at communion. I was intrigued by the fact that the young women were displaying acres of bare flesh….but heads were covered. Still haven’t worked that one out.

  3. This is an issue of “big feelings” for me. So hopefully I won’t get too crazy in my response 😉

    First, modesty is a good value IN SO FAR AS IT GOES. But too often, esp. in the christian world, we try to define what that means in specific terms without understanding and communicating that the specifics are societal.

    And even worse, we promote modesty from the wrong angle. It becomes about the man instead of being about the woman. It becomes about acceptance from God based on what a woman wears. In other words, I should dress modestly because my body creates some sort of temptation. My body isn’t about me, my body is about the man, about society. It’s an object to be controlled and preached about from the pulpit. My body is scary and shameful because it causes others to sin. My breasts aren’t beautiful creations that have 2 purposes of sexual pleasure and providing food and bonding for my progeny – they are temptations. My shape is to be veiled because it’s bad, because it causes my brothers to stumble. I am the object. I am the sin. I am the receiver. These are the messages the church sends when dealing with this issue. Regardless of the intent, this is what many many women hear – for some, it creates shame that causes the woman to hide away, to cover, to follow the rules – for others it creates a shame that causes the woman to seek validation by uncovering.

    I take issue with your friend’s attitude on so many levels but mostly I want to caution you as a mom of daughters quite a bit older than your itty bitty. Do not make this about society or the man. Make this about your daughter and her beautiful body created by God to be enjoyed and cherished. If you lift her up and talk to her about the person she wants to “put out there”, you likely won’t have any problems with issues of “modesty”. If from the beginning you teach her strength and self dignity and identity in Christ and promote healthy boundaries, she will make godly decisions about her own body.

    as for “skin in church”, I think it’s a bit silly to be honest. If cleavage is causing the men in your church to have fits in their pants, then you need to be addressing why the men are oversexed, not why the women are showing cleavage. And then you lift up that woman with love and affirmation because it’s what she deserves, not to get her to wear a turtle neck.

    ** note: the “you” is generic

    • "as for "skin in church", I think it's a bit silly to be honest. If cleavage is causing the men in your church to have fits in their pants, then you need to be addressing why the men are oversexed, not why the women are showing cleavage. And then you lift up that woman with love and affirmation because it's what she deserves, not to get her to wear a turtle neck."

      You gotta be kidding me! Men are oversexed because they are bombarded 24 hours a day with sexual images: the street, work, TV, stores, the so called " church" (supposed to be the called out ones). Tell me when do we get a break? Lift up that woman? She doesn't need anymore lifting up, she's already doing that all by herself with the push-up bra. Christianity has taken a sad downward spiral in this country. It's about my "Liberty" in Christ, not about how can I use my liberty to build others up and promote righteousness? I believe Scripture teaches modesty in both the old and new testaments.
      Enough with the excuses about who's to blame. Christian women should not walk around bearing their breasts and showing their panties when they sit because of their low cut blouses and miniskirts, especially not in the church building! Period! Christian Immodesty is an oxymoron!

  4. @Holly – Wow, what a Bible study! Can you imagine someone trying that at our church!? haha…

    I too get upset about this topic, for the reasons you, as well as the ones Mak, named. I think a big part of the problem with this is we keep saying the same things – it’s the woman’s issue, dress differently, things will be alright. But like I said above, I think dress is a symptom of something else.

    Holly, you’re not a mom (yet!?) but you are a (Christian) woman who’s thoughts I highly respect. Thanks for the thoughts.

    @Glenn – Thanks for the comment and the suggestions. Interesting about the Brethren church…

    @Makeesha – A hearty amen, thank you for the nuancing of the issue. And stating it the way you did. I agree that if we externalize the issue and make it about society and men (and in our world those two in many ways are one in the same) we not only completely ignore femininity as a part of God’s beautiful creation, but we also perpetuate a patriarchal ordering (and dominance) of our churches, and world.

    I appreciate your seasoned advice.

  5. Oh, and I added a little question mark to my title to incorporate Mak’s advice, as well as get at the point of my post a little better.

  6. well, not THAT seasoned 😉 LOL thank you for hearing me out, I know I can get a bit harsh about this issue some times – I think 29 years in conservative evangelicalism just made me come undone LOL

  7. Amen, Makeesha. Your word express exactly how I felt at that stupid bible study over 5 years ago….except I was silly/bold enough to challenge people in their thoughts. I was considered a radical feminist in that group for many years. ha!

  8. LOL I know, was just teasing

    Holly – OH NO! not a radical feminist! Anything but someone who wants women to be treated as human beings 😉

  9. whooo-wee. This is a hard one. As a mom to a 14 year old daughter, I’ll say this much …

    In every instance I tell her to think about how she would respond to a given situation. I ask her to judge her response and help her to walk through situations using her own senses as a guide and her own judgments as reflection.

    It’s confusing to her that her clothing is the one area that we (society and culture) ask her and her peers to use someone else as a marker. Think about that for moment. It’s a very confusing thing.

    We tell our young women that in dating situations they are in control and strong. No means no. Yes means yes.

    We tell our young women that they can make decisions based on what their needs and desires are in everything … except clothing. When it comes to clothing they need to consider what messages they are sending to men. Because men cannot control themselves when in the presence of women who show their flesh.

    Men who make incredibly detailed decisions about nuclear medicine and warfare are apparently rendered to the level of dogs and monkeys in the presence of a half-exposed female bosom. Who is the powerful of the genders? Who should have their finger on the red button? If something is distracting, don’t look at it. Turn your head away. The responsibility is not on the woman … it’s on the man to stop looking.

    Ultimately, the adulterer who sins by lusting in his heart is the one who has sinned. Not the girl who has dressed in skimpy clothing. You can take that to the bank.

  10. OK – I do not have time to think clearly about this and still make my appointment in an hour, but I am writing this comment so that I will feel obligated to deal with this later today.

    This IS an important issue, but I completely disagree with your blogger Annie. Her soultion is Ass backwards

    I will explain myself later

  11. Men need to remember that women are not objects to meet their needs with.

    We are Eikons made in God’s image. We are sisters in Christ. Look away. Look away.

  12. Wess:

    Great post! As you know, there were so many angles I could have gone with…and I didn’t even address men, which I should at some point. So thanks for unpacking this issue more. Good stuff.


  13. well said sonja.

    Rhett, I’m afraid I can’t let you off that easy my friend. It’s not just that you “didn’t address men”, the way you spoke of the whole issue smacked of patriarchalist ideals. In fact, I would argue that the approach of “addressing men” and “addressing women” proves that we had far to go in how we view human sexuality, gender relations, etc. esp. in the church.

    Now, having said that, you were giving an honest reaction and sharing your thoughts about this issue, so that’s fine. I’m not so concerned about the specifics of your post as I am that your approach to the topic is not unique and so many women have been harmed because of that approach, not to mention that otherwise fully capable, intelligent men have been rendered “dumb monkeys” in this arena – which is an injustice to them as well.

    and as an aside, I really wish men would stop saying that women “aren’t as visual as men”. It’s wrong and it’s an excuse given so that men can talk about what women wear. They’ll say “oh, I’d talk about what men wear too but…” pshaw.

    I also want to say that I don’t think it’s so bad for a man to see the outline of my shape and get turned on. I’m not remotely threatened by that and don’t think it’s sin or evil or something I need to protect him against. In fact, I really don’t care if he generates an entire sexual fantasy in his mind about me. I guess I just don’t get what’s so terrifying about human sexuality to christians that makes us say these sorts of things. I also wouldn’t feel threatened if my husband saw a woman and had those thoughts.

  14. Peggy – I’m with you, I cannot even express how frustrated I get when women present this issue in this way. Honestly, I think that addressing modesty in such simplistic terms is insulting and intellectually lazy.

  15. I feel the need to qualify that my harsher comments above are not aimed at Wes or Rhett or anyone specifically but at the way this issue is handled. I often speak to the whole without qualifying

  16. @sonja – “If something is distracting, don’t look at it. Turn your head away. The responsibility is not on the woman … it’s on the man to stop looking. Ultimately, the adulterer who sins by lusting in his heart is the one who has sinned. Not the girl who has dressed in skimpy clothing. You can take that to the bank.” Great quote – I love it. Thanks for adding to this discussion.

  17. @Peggy, Oh come on! You can’t do that! I look forward to your ‘real’ comment. But I agree already – at least in terms of the Ass being backwards.

    @Peggy and Makeesha,

    I don’t know Annie, and just picked up a small quote from Rhett – so she probably does (at least I hope) have a more nuanced position on the matter. But I still think that the general (and oh-so overused) approach is wrong, that is the approach of placing the ball in a woman’s court, insofar as it a) assumes woman should be working from some common desire to to release men from their responsibilities of not looking – as Sonja put it so well; b) it suggests that creation isn’t beautiful regardless of what other think; and c) treats clothing as the main issue to be dealt with, as if to suggest that out clothing is equal to our real spirituality. It’s the same issue I see over smoking and drinking: I remember a conversation awhile back about how a minister at a new church had to sign a paper that said he would not smoke, or drink to insure his spiritual purity. Of course, we all have differing opinions these questions, but have you ever seen a church ask a (male) pastor to sign a contract promising to not lust in his heart?

    Now, before I come off as spiritualizing this issue, I do think our bodies, and the actual physical material we interact with on a day to day basis is a signifier of everything else, and that’s ultimately why I think the above “general” approach is ultimately wrong. It either suggests there is nothing we can do, it’s only a “heart” matter, or it suggests that clothing/fashion and outward looks are something to be controlled and oppressed giving the (false) appearance of then having the our ‘hearts’ in order.

    I think this is why I gravitated towards Mak’s first comments about this, they seem to get behind this, and turn the tables on the question and the issue.

    Thanks for all your input on this!

  18. hehe … yeah … it becomes crystal clear when you’re dealing with your own child on the issue what the root of the problems are. For most things you tell her, “Don’t worry about what other people think, worry about what’s right.” Then on this one thing, you tell her, “Oh … over here, about clothes, worry about what men think.” When her brow wrinkles up and suddenly you listen to yourself and you realize … hey, I’m selling a wheelbarrow load of manure here. Back the car up and start again.

    Now … that’s not to say we don’t also talk about being safe and strong. What are safe situations for her? How does she keep herself in places where she feels comfortable and in control and that sort of thing. So she dresses with that in mind rather than modesty … being comfortable with herself and what she wants to say about herself to the rest of the world.

  19. @Sonja – “So she dresses with that in mind rather than modesty … being comfortable with herself and what she wants to say about herself to the rest of the world.”

    That’s great! I think you’re right – isn’t even the ideas of modesty and immodesty an oppressive binary? The wrong thing to begin or end with? Something we treat as though it’s a universal, but is really thoroughly rooted in subjectivity? A subjectivity that is often used to keep people out, rather than in.

  20. Can i just add that there is so much more health in these comments than in the false humility of our puritan upbringing. I love it. Thanks so much, Makeesha, Sonja, Wess, etc.

  21. I can’t claim to fully understand the oppression that women have felt in this place, but I do have a bit of a connection.

    At my old church I used to lead the song worship time. I dressed as I do every day of the week, often wearing a hat. One week while I was wearing my hat I left to get a drink of water after I was done my part on the stage. I was met in the hall by one of the senior pastors who told me very directly that I wear my hat because I have a pride problem. It was a problem that was going to keep me from being used by God.

    So God was inhibited by my theological decision to dress in a certain way. There was an assumption that the “congregation” would not be able to worship if they had to deal with me wearing my hat. … so, while it wasn’t an oh so terrible sexual sin that i was tempting them into, my dress was still considered a stumbling block.

    So, all that to say I do somewhat understand this ridiculous situation we have burdened especially women with for too long.

  22. sorry.. one more thought 🙂

    being an art student I am probably somewhat biased, but I don’t really see a problem with nudity at all. Weeks and years of drawing all sorts of shapes and forms of human bodies has given me an appreciation where once I had fear. Now, maybe nude drawings are just depraved and wikked, but I doubt it 😉

    I see our bodies as dynamic creations that should be appreciated all the more in a community who calls themselves children of God. children who are supposedly opening up to a fuller integration and a blessed kingdom life. sexy is precious and it doesn’t always show up in curves.

  23. I think that’s such a wonderfully humble and honest response David, well said! men like you and wess and my husband and sonja’s husband and all the other amazing evolved men in my life give me hope

  24. Well, Well,
    That’s a mess o comments.

    I spent the day just all riled up.
    I feel positively inspired.
    Way too inspired for this little copmment box.

    So I have started a Women’s Bolograma on this topic over at
    Silly Poor Gospel

    all you nice folks please feel free to drop on in!


  25. I guess I see this im/modesty as a “locus of control” question, more than a skin/dress-up issue. Maybe it’s more akin to gossip…it’s not what others say about you, it’s what you think of yourself and how you express it. Isn’t that what the body is for, for expression of the inner self and spirit?

    It seems like lots of what is being talked about here is limited to our overgeneralized vocabulary here as well–skin, sexy, clothes, im/modesty. it’s the same concern I have when someone talks about “values”–these are embodied and practiced; I think they get us into trouble when they are ascribed.

    Quakers are about faith and practice, combined, and how those come together demonstrate who we are. When they aren’t in concert within us, when they aren’t working in accordance with what we want and believe in ourselves is when we get into trouble–the clothing not matching the message. It’s recognizing this, or that lack thereof, where things seem to go wrong.

    Also, I’d like to point out that there are a lot of things that are sexy to guys that aren’t about clothing or lack thereof.

  26. I am glad the other folks have come in on this before I saw it so I can be less…angry. As a parent, of course you don’t want little girls dressing in “sexy” clothes…little girls don’t feel sexy – they are children and should feel like children and be thought of as children. Once we are sexual beings, though, after adolescence, there is no reason to hide it. God made our sexuality and it is beautiful. We are beautiful, skin and all. Previous commenters are going way easier on Wess and Rhett than I will be…I say this to the promoters of “modesty”: your patriarchal views oppress me and my daughters, no matter how gently they are phrased. Cover yourself up if you want to and don’t judge women by their clothes.

  27. @makeesha: I will agree with you that my statements did sound “patriarchal” in even taking the stance of having to adress the genders differently.

    I realize this issue is way more profound and deep than I wrote in my first post. My first post was mainly a reaction to Anne’s blog, as well as to some serious issues arising at our church based on these things.

    My fear (and maybe it’s only mine–and heightened now being a parent) that we pretty much objectify women as sexual objects in our culture. It’s not about the issue of sexuality and whether God has created us as sexual beings….but a certain sense of modesty in a culture that is oversexualized in many degrees. And after working with college students the last 12 years I would say this is an important topic that needs to be addressed.

    But I’m open to discussion, thoughts, even rebuke where you feel i”m wrong.

    Thanks for sharing.


  28. I found this post to be incredibly insightful and something that i haven’t really considered. In undergraduate being forced to dress their defenision of modestly all the time made me want to do just the opposite. It makes me ponder if modesty is up for opinion in reality?

    Along those lines i found this post to bring about a lot of contemplation in how i would want my children to act, male or female, and also how i wish those close to me to act. I guess i’ve never considered why people have acted like this because i always just assumed it was some sort of cultural norm. Honestly, this was my loss and in reality I shouldn’t EVER push things off as cultural norms.

    Thanks for the post.

  29. Rhett – yes, it needs to be addressed. I was telling my husband last night that certain people just blow it off and say “whatever” and others take the approach of creating laws and shaming. But how it’s being addressed in the church disturbs me.

    But being a Christian is not about issues. it’s about people. And I guess I’m just really tired of how women dress being treated as an issue to be solved. It makes me sad.

  30. Thanks everyone for the added comments. I’ve re-read my post in light of what everyone has said and added a couple footnotes. And instead of writing another post to incorporate all your wonderful insights, I thought I’d just post my thoughts here in the comments.

    First, If I were to write this again I would have been more explicit in my criticism of what chad so neatly calls “im/modesty.” In the post I suggested that it is a symptom, which I think it is, but it’s also a binary that not only isn’t biblical, it’s not helpful and can be very harmful. In other words, clothing isn’t the real issue here.

    Secondly, I would have been more explicit in my critique of Annie’s position. I was using her as my foil, I am not promoting that idea at all. I hope that came through. But I don’t know Annie, and I don’t read her blog (yet) and I find charity in the blogosphere goes a lot further than belligerence (Lord knows I’ve been guilty of that!). In a post about caring about women and not wanting them/you to be objectified it would be ironic to take a woman’s comments that are honestly trying to deal with the problem from her own perspective and attack it. Hopefully my trying to be friendly didn’t implicate me in the ‘patriarchal’ system any more than I may already be.

    Third, I am with all of you that dress is at most a surface issue, or at the very least, no issue at all. Most of you who commented here know me personally, and have guessed I try not to put to much stock in how I dress. I take seriously the Quaker idea that Christians ought to be ‘plain’ in their outward appearance because what matters is our inner transformation and faith in Christ. BUT – as I said above – I do not bifurcate the two, the inner and the outer, the way early Quakers did. For me, I wear the clothes I wear because I see that every act I do is a part of the daily practice of expressing my faith. This is why I don’t wear clothes that make me an advertisement, or wear things that distract from me as a person, As Chad wrote in an email to me, our bodies should not be used for billboards. I see this practice of expressing faith not only informing what I choose to wear on a daily basis but what kinds of clothes I do not purchase (At least knowingly) – i.e. clothes that are causing more children slaves in other countries.

    I grew up in a context where looks didn’t matter much, both my parents were hippies – they liked to wear tattered jeans, go around shoeless, my step-dad had hair down to his back, and we were fairly poor as well. So looking ‘good’ wasn’t something we ever valued as a family. In other words, from a very young age I was formed in a way that suggested I was special no matter what I looked like, and I could be myself regardless of whether people thought I was cute or not. I also got made fun of all the time, I went to a rich catholic private school our grandpa paid for, because I couldn’t afford the ‘cool’ clothes. So this runs very deep, for all of us I am sure.

    Fourth, I believe that our creatureliness is a gift from God, and that all people are created beautiful. I whole heartedly embrace Makeesha’s comment (http://gatheringinlight.com/2008/05/08/on-immodesty-too-much-skin-at-church-and-elsewhere/#comment-70945), and the think body is not something to be feared but cherished. I told her I’m using her stuff from now on!

    I think it’s also important to note, as my wife pointed out yesterday while we were discussing all this, that ‘sexuality’ and ‘beauty’ are socially constructed ideas. Emily told me about the sheer competition to ‘look good’ among the girls at the high-school where she teaches. For her, it’s not so much a matter of being beautiful or not, but a matter of recognizing that you are beautiful even if you don’t have the “right kind of body” or aren’t “beautiful” in the ways others think they are. What our culture thinks is beautiful isn’t necessarily what is beautiful, what our world thinks is ‘sexy’ is more than likely not sexy at all. I think we can start talking about beauty, sexuality, etc and realize that even in doing that people are being left behind, people who do not feel beautiful, or sexy. People who get trampled by the competition of showing off their sexuality, or get caught up in it in ways that are not healthy.

    Fifth, It’s really difficult, in the sense of being scary, to bring this kind of thing up as a guy. I wonder if it is really useful for a guy to bring it up at all? Kind of like you’re damned if you do, and not damned as long as you keep your mouth shut on the topic. I felt this way after Mariah’s comment. Mariah, you apparently read my post with your pre-conceived biases working in full-force. I am not oppressing you, nor would I want to. I am not ‘patriarchal’ to the best of my ability, nor do I want to be.

    I came out of a church context that would not let woman speak from the pulpit or have lead roles even among the youth group. When I first heard a deconstruction of that view, and a re-reading of Paul that argued for woman pastors in college – I was a believer. When I found out there was an entire church tradition who believed that, I converted to that tradition (Quakerism). I know as a man I am implicated in the system, and that there are many things I do, I am sure, that are leftovers from a society where it is still okay to mistreat women, but I reject that as something I want. I see part of my role as a theologian and minister to help build up woman leaders. I feel like, and really hope, that is something that extends from more than just this post. So your comments felt not only hurtful, but misinformed, like you’re just trying to hit somebody. This isn’t the way to open up discussions about the topic, especially when you’re swinging at someone on your side!

    And finally, I know L appreciates all your advice to her dad and mom – who are only 4.5 months in, but who hope and pray they’ll raise a strong Quaker woman in the great tradition of Quaker women!

  31. First, a reference for those looking at how this issue affects them personally as parents of chldren and teens. Barbara Coloroso has written a book, “Kids are Worth It, Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline,” which I often describe as the most Quakerly parenting book I know of by a non-Quaker. She is also an excelent storyteller. Children who know how to listen to that of God in themselves and speak to it in others have less need to rebel, but they may be nore aware of adults who don’t live what they preach. For us, an unexpected consequence was that our two children were those other kids trusted and came to with personal/family problems. Our house was a safe place.

    Second, modesty is a human creation, part of a larger network of ways to know what is acceptable behavior. Loss of common agreement as to what is acceptable can lead to individuals or groups asserting that they [sometimes only they] know what is necessary to restore it. And so we get the Reformation and the Inquisition, Puritans and Quakers, Hitler and FDR, John Woolman and John Brown, the independence of Kosovo and the civil war in Iraq. This is certainly an oversimplification, but when societies are going through periods of change, some folks do better at it than others. How do we know who to trust? That is part of Integrity, a basic Quaker testimony. Being trusting and trustable teaches others to trust us and themselves – part of that gift of inner discipline. The teaching of modesty is rarely value-neutral. It can be a vehicle for teaching fear, distrust, and inequality or it can be the opposite.

    Tom Farley, Quaker, storyteller,and children’s bookseller

  32. I didn’t want to hit anyone, and I do respect the difficulty of coming from this as a man, so I am sorry I made you feel that way…but I still feel the “patriarchy in the post” and I don’t think that is my bias – I think it is the oppression of a system that comes out even when someone, like you, is trying to be helpful and good. An insidiously patriarchal take, even among people who would never mean to be oppressive. it’s not about clothes, as you say – it’s about controlling perceptions, and the fact that it is always the way women dress, not men, that is brought up is very telling. About the system, and also about how it has affected the people who bring it up. That said, I think I feel a little too able to be harsh towards Quaker types about this sort of thing…like we should know better. But the system is more insidious than that, even, so I shouldn’t be that way – sorry.

  33. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Kids are worth it.

    wess, I adore you and want to be sure you know that I think your post was fine and I think you’ve done a good job addressing this issue as a man and a daddy of a daughter.

    one thing I want to point out is that I don’t think “sexuality” is a social construct. I think how that is expressed is socially influenced but human sexuality is created in us by God. Which is why I feel so strongly about using caution in how we tell people to “deal with” their sexuality.

  34. Wess, Thank you so much for blogging on this. Peggy told me about it yesterday and about her “Women’s Blog-o-Rama” she is instigating on this topic. As I have been thinking out this very issue quite a bit lately, I have started a series of posts of my own on my blog, http://www.WalkingTheSea.blogspot.com. I look forward to reading what you write next!


  35. There are several things you want to be careful about when you’re talking on this subject. And it’s easy to get them confused because we tend to use the terms interchangeably in our culture. I’ll see if I can tease them out here and give a little bit of historical perspective.

    Beauty IS a societal/cultural construct. What we think of as beautiful and/or sexually attractive changes over time and across cultures. For instance … in our current culture it is the breast that is seen as sexually attractive. In the past it was the calf that was seen as sexually attractive; women covered them up (long skirts) and men actually used pads to make their calves more shapely (NOT kidding). The arm is considered very provocative in some Muslim cultures and so women keep their arms in particular covered up.

    Sexuality (as Mak noted) is NOT a societal construct, but is rooted in our creation by God. It has something to do with genetics and our gender. It does not change across time or cultures though.

    Does that make sense?

    Something that I find sort of remarkable in a very scientific kind of way is that it is an oddity to find a culture in which women are not the keepers of the moral high ground. That is that it is the norm across cultures for women to be held responsible for sexual purity within society by one means or another. This is not to say I think that’s right, I’m just making an observation that our society is not odd by any means. I’m thinking here of some of the cultures in northern Africa (for instance) where girls are subjected to female circumcision in an attempt to keep sexually pure. Or some of the Muslim countries where adulterers are stoned … even rape victims … interestingly enough the rapists can never be found. It’s really a sick standard.

  36. @Mariah – Thanks for the comment and I accept and appreciate the apology.

    @Sarah – Thanks for visiting and commenting on my site! I loved your post on Sophia! Lady Wisdom! I look forward to seeing more of your posts on the matter as well.

    @Mak & @Sonja – I think how our identities are formed culturally is a much bigger issue than I am prepared to (or am even capable) get into any real depth here. But I do think that what we do with gender and sexuality is wrapped up in cultural powers; this is a big part of why we assign the qualities, roles, and values that we do as well as what gives gender/sexuality continuity within specific cultures. In other words, I don’t think there is any universal category of ‘man’ or ‘woman’ because there is such a discontinuity, even within American culture, in how we understand these categories. In fact, isn’t there a sense in which any attempt to universalize, or create sameness among the genders, what gets us into all this trouble to begin with? “Men are like this” – “Women are like this…” Or more to the point of this conversation “The Bible says men are like (or are to do) this” — “The Bible says women are like (or are to do) that.” This approach should immediately throw flags up for all of us.

    However, to be clear, my comment above was really just geared towards Sonja’s point about beauty. That is all I was trying to say. I was referring to the fact that what we think is ‘sexy’ or ‘beautiful’ in our culture is completely subjective and can even be oppressive categories. Sonja, your examples are better than anything I’d come up with. Unfortunately (but not surprising) I was a little to fast and loose with my words to make this clear at the outset.

    I also want to affirm with both of you that a) biology obviously plays a part in our sexuality, but I don’t think it determines it (and I doubt you do either); b) sexuality is absolutely wrapped up in up the imago dei. In fact, wouldn’t this be the perfect place to start a conversation on topic? But of course, what it means for our sexuality to be “wrapped up in” God’s image is an entirely different (and contested) matter. Something maybe for another post? From one of you? 😉

    I think one way to get at this complexity is to think about Jesus’ interaction with women. I think Jesus was revolutionary when it came to him standing up for, and humanizing women in the 1st century. One possible way to ask the question that gets at the differences here may be: 1) Was it because he appealed to some universal understanding or ‘right’ of their womanhood that was rooted in a differentiation between men and women? 2) Or was it because he pointed out what was humiliating and oppressive about that particular cultural system and in the name of God’s kingdom he rejected that system in favor of love for people? 3) Or something else?

    As you probably guess I’m more in line with number two.

    Thank you all for posting your comments and having patience with me on the subject.

  37. LOL … Wess … I was just musing about my last comment here yesterday and thinking, “I need to make a post out of that,” when I came back here to re-read it (copy it to begin) and found your little challenge!!

    So … I’m heading back across the country again, with my words tucked under my arm. We’ll see what happens 😉

  38. Dear Wess,

    This strikes me as being just one more aspect of the Athens-versus-Jerusalem debate that has been going on ever since Alexander of Macedon (if not even longer). The voice of Athens is the voice of enjoyment in the world, of democracy and tolerance. The voice of Jerusalem is the voice of laying up treasures in heaven not on earth, and of socety as an association of people who help one another live up to a discipline that keeps them from sin.

    Let it be noted that both sides in the debate have been known to go to unacceptable extremes. It’s certainly not just Jerusalem that has erred. Moreover, each side does things that the other regards as terribly, horribly wrong, but that everyone on its own side, female and male alike, experience as good and virtuous.

    Unless I’m overlooking something, it seems that every voice in this conversation on your blog is being raised on the Athenian side. That strikes me as rather sad. After all, both sides are wisdom traditions; both have something to say to each new generation that is well worth hearing, on this issue (modesty) as much as any other.

    All the best,

  39. Marshall’s offering of the Athens/Jerusalem model offers some insight as well as exposes missing elements. Athens was a democracy run by a small class of elite males. Jerusalem was run by a male priestly class. What cities represents the search for spiritual truth, the testimonies of integrity and equality, and the principles of scientific inquiry?


  40. @Sonja – I am glad you’ll be writing about it. I hope you’re following Peggy Parson’s posts as well, they’re great.

    @Marshall – thank you for the observation. Definitely looked at it like that.

  41. Hey everyone:

    Thanks for all your posts. I appreciate your input and at some level I agree with you all, and may disagree at some level with others perhaps.

    If you look at my posts, I never really talked about any needed dress code, or even wanted to offer up rules and regulations.

    It is simply an observation…and perhaps not a good one, especially when many aren’t familiar with the church context I pastor in. I am not some Puritan “freaking out” over a women showing her ankle…or outraged with a woman in a short skirt, or even showing cleavage. My concern was that we really don’t make an effort at all sometimes to cover “anything up” out of respect for others and some semblance of modesty that I think is important in any culture.

    But I’m sorry for coming across as blaming women. Not my intention, nor belief.

    But I agree. Church is where Jesus called all the sick, hurt and injured…and that means all of us…and that means everything we bring with it..all our issues, foibles, etc. And that’s the way it should be. So that being the case, we will just continue to wrestle with issues such as this. But I’m certainly glad that people are in church and that dress is not a hindrance.

    I remember going to church when I first got my ears pierced (three earrings) and all the looks I received (my dad was the pastor). I remember the horror of seeing someone in flip flops one day (this was long ago when that was uncommon), but now Reef sandals is about all you will see me in at church.

    So I’m not wanting to push a dress code. If you look at Wess and I’s blog, one of the underlying issues for us was the issue of being first time father’s, and raising our daughter’s in this culture, young girls at a very early age are often affirmed and revered for their sexuality, dress, etc. The age is only getting younger and younger, that now we have common vocabulary in the culture such as “prositot” which is very unfortunate.

    Underlying my concern was also my experience in college ministry for over 10 years, and my work in a counseling setting…and the issues that arose time and time again with females concerning the sexual objectification of them, especially in terms of what they wore, which is usually how it started.

    These are sensitive issues…way too, too deep for me to have blurted, or ranted about in a post. I should have done a better job.

    I will do some more research on this issue, and explore some collaborative authorship and blogging from various perspectives. It was unwise of me as a male to head into this territory without other opinions first, etc.

    Those of you who know me, know that I am a huge egalitarian, and have written on the topic, defended, and advocated for women, especially when it comes to the Church. That’s one of the main reasons I went to Fuller Seminary and am a part of the PCUSA. So I’m pretty sure I’m not patriarchical or oppressive to women, because I may advocate for issues of modesty in some facets of life. And with a masters in marriage and family therapy as well as my master of divinity, I am quite aware of our sexual nature, and who God has created us to be…but also the boundaries we live in as well.

    There is more I could say…but I look forward to further dialogue.

    Last, one commenter made a comment about how I should have more self control rather than signing up for Covenant Eyes which is a porn online monitoring service. I guess I actually consider that a form of self control and I have decided early on to set some boundaries in my behavior, especially when much of my work and leisure revolves around the internet. Porn addiction is staggering in this culture, and is especially growing among females. So I just don’t believe I’m foolish enough that I can spend 40 or so hours a week online and not set some proper boundaries. It was weird to sign up at first, but have found it a very beneficial tool that many are using.

    It’s not just about self control. Just read this book for starters and you might change your mind: Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families http://www.amazon.com/Pornified-Pornography-Transforming-Relationships-Families/dp/0805077456

    You can go to http://www.covenanteyes.com for their service and also http://www.xxxchurch.com has a service as well.



  42. I got as far as this quote:

    “–there is a female feature we call breasts. they can also be referred to as “boobies,??? or “the twins,??? or “the rack,??? or “jugs,??? so on, so forth.”

    and wanted to gag and vomit.

    I would recommend you use some modesty yourself – and that means not disrespecting women and their bodies by quoting totally thoughtless sources.

    I work at a breast cancer organization. THESE ARE OUR BODIES! They would exist whether they are covered up or completely uncovered. Yes, perhaps to men – who, may I remind you, hopefully one day be capable of NOT diminishing a woman’s worth by reducing her to her “boobies,??? or “the twins,??? or “the rack,??? or “jugs??? as you so aptly quote.

  43. @allison.
    “I would recommend you use some modesty yourself – and that means not disrespecting women and their bodies by quoting totally thoughtless sources.”


    Like I said earlier, “damned if you do, and not damned as long as you keep your mouth shut on the topic.”

    Never mind quoting a woman who said that about her body, and I was using that as a point to disagree with – to say I don’t think that’s acceptable. I don’t think modesty is pretending people don’t say stupid things like that. It’s confronting it and saying it’s not okay – it’s not my quote – I don’t speak like that to my wife or anyone else. And I agree there should be no reducing down to parts, of anyone: Women or Men. Thanks for your comment.

  44. Sorry Wess, I came on too strong. Let me clarify – not only do I work at a breast cancer organization, I work at a feminist one. http://www.bcaction.org/

    After I commented I read (most) of the other comments and your responses. I was reacting to the original post, and that was my true reaction – a reaction that asks “why is the blame always on women?” instead of examining how men are behaving among women or among other men.

    To me it’s ironic that you feel damned if you do or damned if you don’t – I felt that way reading this post. We can’t wear clothes that express our true selves which happen to include the existence of breasts, but when we do wear clothes that show what everybody already knows (breasts exist, surprise surprise) then we have to worry about men devaluing us. Does wearing modest clothing that makes women get judged only subtly instead of overtly solve the problem of the sexual objectification of women? No, it doesn’t. Let’s get to the root of the problem.

    I have never been a man, but I think that society fails boys. We need to teach men to be respectful, sensitive, loving, that their manhood is not defined by their virility and physical strength.

    I was reading this non-Quaker blog and the social worker reframed it like I would like all discussions framed: http://harlowmonkey.typepad.com/harlows_monkey/2008/05/theyre-talking.html

    I always defend someone who is dressed “slutty” – what makes someone a “slut” anyway? If there were no men lining up to sleep with a woman, would she still be a “slut”? Girls grow up in a Madonna/whore culture where they have to section off different aspects of themselves instead of being whole, both loving nurturers AND sexual beings. It’s very confusing.


  45. Wow…a lot of ink spilled on this one. I have sympathy for your concerns as you have a child. However, a large part of me just doesn’t care, because I fear sexuality most when sexuality itself becomes a fetish. While sex (with food and drink in the Xian tradition) is one of our strongest biological drives, I have a hard time seeing what the big deal is. I mean, part of my problem with Anne’s comment in your post is: quite frankly, I can see breasts with little affect. I think it is helpful to put a question like this in with any other question that has to do with manners. It becomes a question of how one is socialized. When something like this becomes rule-based, it’s going to give more power to sexuality than perhaps it deserves. The challenge is that living wisely or appropriately may initially require rules as a mode of socialization even if wisdom has little need for them, but also that appropriateness involves a myriad of gestures, actions, and modes of relating that make up any language, a set of behaviors in which parents constantly engage and so shape their children. If the question were mine, I’d start by being as involved as a parent as possible…which requires deep listening in a welcoming spirit and dispensing gentle but frank speech. I care less that TV and the internet is ‘immodest’ as I do about its being misogynistic. Watch things like your tendency to compliment your daughter’s outfit first? I really do fear conversations like this, since as soon as it has made a bogeyman out of sexuality, attraction, etc., I think you’ve already gone too far afield. So perhaps a good question is the positive counterpoint to your question: How do we celebrate our bodies and our sexuality with our children?

    Wess, you have to read Amy Laura Hall’s “Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction” which deals with how the corporate-inspired family ideals that have come to pervade the American Christian mainstream. I think there should be something in there that would relate to this discussion, which is to say that we need to think through how our children have become products.

  46. Oh, and thanks for the link to AYT on your sidebar. Even if I probably won’t be discussing modesty any time soon, I’m glad someone is. Peace, brother.

  47. I am going to throw out some thoughts on this subject since I have thought about it and related stuff quite a lot. I also posted on Rhett’s blog. I apologize for the length and wordiness.

    @Makeesha – You seem to have cut a lot closer to the heart of the issue of modesty than much of what I have read on the subject. Thank you for being so frank and honest! You certainly have challenged some of my beliefs and I am re-evaluating them after reading your posts. I believe that you are right in that the church has said, in so many words, that women are the root of sin in the context of sexuality. I have been wrestling and grappling with tthis subject for quite some time. I did an experiment where I looked at a lot of artistic nude pictures at an art website. I found that seeing abreast full on became less exciting, but when teased with a glimpse, the excitement went way up. I found that I could be aroused and not think selfish and lustful thoughts towards the women in the pictures. However, If I wanted to, I could think selfishly, and was even tempted to think that way (James 1:14). Something you said sparked a thought in my mind: have we condemned arousal in men as something sinful? Arousal in normal and natural, therefore it isn’t sinful because God said “it is good” when He had finished creating the earth and all that was in it, including sexual arousal. I wonder if a chunk of the problem is painting sexual arousal in men as sinful… Hmmm, if I look at a woman to cause sexual arousal because I enjoy it, is that selfish (i.e. sinful)? If I look at a woman not to be sexually aroused per se, but to admire the variety and beauty of God’s creation even if there is some sexual arousal that results because of how God designed the brain to react to certain stimuli, is that acceptable behavior for a Christian?

    My brother and I talked about sin, love, and modesty over Memorial weekend. We have a tendancy to talk about deep theological stuff! I recounted seeing a woman wearing cargoish type pants that were thin and very snug around her derriere. I was bothered (I think I was bothered more by my response to seeing rather than what she was wearing) by it until I talked with my brother about it. He asked if it is ok to look; biblically, I couldn’t object. He asked if it was ok to enjoy; again, I could not think of a biblical reason that would condemn such behavior. His third and final question was did I want her selfishly? I answered that selfishness entered the picture after glancing several times. In rural Belize, women run around topless and it doesn’t seem to bother the guys at all. They grew up seeing a woman’s breasts, and breasts are not eroticized in Belize as they are in American culture. I have a friend who ogles a lot! He shows no shame in doing so. I have observed his behavior and it strikes me as viewing women as objects. I might be wrong but that is what I have perceived. Makeesha mentioned that she didn’t care if some guy was checking her out, or something like that. That brought back what my brother and I had discussed about enjoying a woman’s body as God’s creation (ok) and not wanting her body for selfish gain (not ok). Breasts aren’t tempting unless we make them tempting by desiring them. Personally, I prefer to think that breasts are primarily for feeding little ones and sexual pleasure as Makeesha pointed out. They may be tempting because I am being tempted and drawn away by my own lusts (selfish desires) and enticed (James 1:14), not because breasts are temptations. I can’t help but wonder if God isn’t rolling His eyes and thinking: “I made the human body and the brain and here you are making them out to be evil, scandalous and sinful?! I created the body for your enjoyment in a covenental, marriage relationship but you shake your head and argue that the body is sinful and wicked and must be controlled. Thanks for appreciating what I did FOR you.”

    To clarify, love is selfless (1 Cor. 13 and other passages) and sin is selfish (among other things such as corruption – Paul). Love is the perfect fulfillment of the law (The greatest commandment and the second which is like it). Therefore, sin is fairly easy to define. If I want for myself without thought or regard to the benefit and well-being of the other person, then I sin. On the other hand, if I think and behave in a manner that shows regard and concern for the well-being, needs, and welfare of others, then I am not sinning.

    Applying the above to modesty. If a woman is dressing a certain way to attract attention to meet a need out of selfishness, then she clearly is in the wrong and should wear something else. It boils down to what her motivation is for wearing certain clothing. Now, in the same token, we guys need to recognize when we are looking at a woman selfishly and do something about it. I struggle with looking with selfish intent at women who are “provacatively” dressed. It isn’t necessarily (read first part of paragraph – this is towards Christian women) that the woman is sinning in wearing it, but I am sinning for sure in the specific way I am looking at her. Does this make sense? That is something that I have to deal with just as the Christian woman has to deal with wearing certain clothing for selfish (sinful) reasons. Neither should receive greater blame for his or her actions because one or both are guilty of sinning, this levels the playing field. Just as Adam blamed Eve, so we guys blame women. Don’t forget that Eve blamed the serpent, modeling Adam’s behavior of blaming another; women also need to ask themselves if they are passing the buck and blaming something or someone else just as Adam did.

    I’m convinced that I could visit a Naturist (Nudist) beach and after I have demolished the initial mental blockades that would rise up (some lingering puritanical beliefs, what I have been taught regarding sexuality by my parents and the beliefs they held, etc.) I believe I could be just fine seeing a sea of nude bodies adn not be overwhelmed with temptations. I say this in light of using myself as a guinea pig and trying to understand what affects my viewing the artistic nude section of an art website would cause. It was a fascinating experiment, and I learned some things about myself as a male and it gave me food for thought regarding religion, the Bible, and sexuality.

    Sex is very important to us guys, hence we think about it more often than most women. It seems to tie in with the aggressive nature that God fashioned us with. So, it stands to reason why we guys struggle more with sexuality than the average woman. Most women don’t look at a guys body and become aroused by it. Since you gals don’t have the same experience when you look at a guys body, don’t start pointing your finger and saying that we can do better since you have no idea exactly how we are affected by your body! I’m not making excuses either, but asking that you be sensitive to differences that you don’t have experiential knowledge of and how we are affected by you body differntly than you are affected by our male bodies. You may have some idea, but you don’t know with intimate detail. I read that a woman’s mind is like a modern computer running the Windows OS. A woman can have several windows open and she can easily switch between them and manage them. We guys, on the other hand, are more like an old computer running MS-DOS. We can run one program at a time and we have to shutdown the previous program before we can start another program. I may know that a woman’s mind operates like a Windows equipped PC, but I don’t have experiential and intimate knowledge of how that works exactly and what it is like. I know, but I don’t know the intimate details. Make sense? I usually try to keep differences such as this in mind when engaging subjects such as this.

    I read an article once at Christianitytoday.com; it was entitled ‘In Defense of My Pink Slingbacks.’ (http://www.christianitytoday.com/singles/newsletter/mind51116.html)

    “My friend Max calls them incidents that put a little extra sway in your hips. And, mercifully, I’ve had a couple of them recently. A man at the laundromat I frequent asked for my number. A guy at a movie theater complemented my walk (I didn’t even know I had a walk.) I love the way these interactions affirm my femininity, put a bit of a sly smile on my lips, make me feel soft and girlie…I have a feeling it has less to do with fashion and more to do with my secret singleness fear—my phobia of one day becoming one of those genderless, older never-married women who sports sansabelt pants and sensible shoes.”

    This article got me thinking; what did God have in mind when He created a woman’s body as He did? Why did He design a guys brain to be affected to the magnitude that it is when we see a woman’s body? And of all things He said it was good!! I believe that the church has erred greatly and is more like the Pharisee’s attempting to obey a bunch of laws to keep them from sinning and missing the proper reasons/motivation (i.e. love/selflessness) for obedience altogether! God forgives, He even died on a cross on our behalf to deal with the problem of sin. Why then do we try so hard to avoid sinning by use of rules and laws and not because we love each other and limiting our liberty in Christ with love around those who don’t feel quite the same way that we do regarding certain things? God didn’t die for our sins so that we could run around trying not to sin, but rather that we could have an intimate relationship with Him! He will deal with sin (sanctification) throughout our lifetime, but the relationship comes first! In Anna Broadway’s defense, she stated in one of her blogs that the relationship is first and foremost in marriage and that sex is secondary and serves to strengthen and reinforce the relationship. Relationship, relationship, relationship.

    ::jumps off of soapbox::