Lies My Laurel Advisers (and Elder Callister) Told Me

rape-culture-555x368It was deadly silent in the Young Women’s room where I was sitting as a Laurel some twenty years ago. The Young Women president, whom I loved dearly, was reading a letter. It was an open letter to the Young Women of the church, long before the days of open letters on the internet. This letter was from a woman who had been raped, and it was written to us, the Young Women of the church. She said she invited the rape because her makeup was too much, her sleeves were too little, her skirt was too short and her nails were too long. She was alone, in the wrong place, and dressed “inappropriately.” It was her fault because of her dress, she told us. She had asked for it. And she was paying for it.

We sat in reverence and shock at the close of the letter. “This girl was nineteen, but it could happen to you….” That could happen to me! I felt sick, but…  something felt… wrong. Something twinged in me… because, well… didn’t the man who attacked her—didn’t he have a choice? I mean, wasn’t HE the rapist? I sat feeling confused and a little angry. I felt like I should question this… but I didn’t know why. And I was scared. Because no one wants to be raped.

In conclusion, the Young Women’s first counsellor reverently added, “Because men really do have less control in this than women.” BAM. That was it!! That is what was bothering me! The Plan of Salvation. Agency. Because I was being taught that we all had agency…. And this was teaching me that men do NOT have agency. At least when it comes to sex. And this didn’t make sense. This was not the gospel I knew and loved. This was false doctrine. But I didn’t challenge my Young Women’s leaders…. even if what they were teaching me was opposite to what I was being taught in rape prevention classes at school.

Sadly, Elder Tad Callister’s article in the Liahona and Ensign repeats the lie that men have less, restricted or even no agency in regard to their own sexual urges. He claims that “The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men. If it is too low or too high or too tight, it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure.” Yes, this is true. For some men. But that is what self-control is all about. And when we teach Young Men that they are not allocated agency, then we teach them to see women as walking porn, even when we are dressed modestly.

Callister’s horrifying piece has been so heavily contradicted that my voice is but a reverberation. (My favs include Holly Welker, Natasha Helfer Parker  and a nod from the Exponent’s own Libby), and yet.. in reading it, I became a Laurel again. Triggered to that moment when I was first taught that the Plan of Salvation didn’t apply to males. In this, I think of a friend who was refused entry to a church dance. She was dressed modestly– her dress was longer in length and had a higher neckline than mine. But she also had long flowing blond hair, and a perfect figure. She was gorgeous. The adult leader at the door deemed her inappropriately dressed, and refused her entry.  We were shocked, given my nearly sleeveless top, and left. But I could not shake the thought that HE- the adult leader- found her attractive. Because she was beautiful. And he was creepy.

I don’t know if that was the day that solidified my feminism, or the day when I first learned that the Plan of Salvation and law of agency didn’t apply to men, according to this singular teaching. But it made a lasting impression on me. My mother’s teachings echoed what I was learning at church, but she added information about not trusting boys whom I didn’t know well, and making smart choices about who to spend time with, especially if we were alone. She was concerned with conservative dress, but supported me in performing in the local community theater and school plays, wherein I often was required to wear “immodest clothing.” You know the kind. The bodysuit that was required for dance lessons was… well, a bodysuit.

Feminism or not, what I do know is that this teaching was—and still is false. The idea that a woman’s appearance forces a man to lose his agency is in contradiction to what is taught in the Book of Moses, Chapter 4. Specifically, verse 3 teaches “that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him.” This verse is often interpreted to mean that when women dress “provocatively”- that we forcibly remove agency from men, who then are coerced into raping us. But there is perversion in this line of thinking, because it implies, nay—the idea declares– that women remove the agency of men based on the choices that women make for themselves, i.e. in clothing. In contrast, in situations where men sexually assault women, men remove the agency of the woman only in using physical force against the woman. In this, the interpretation of the law of agency becomes flexible– which really means is cannot be a law.

No mortal can intellectually remove agency from another; that is the imperative part of the Plan of Salvation. It is the key to the Atonement, and the purpose for our earth lives. This is exactly why Satan was cast out; he wanted to use force, rather than give us agency. Hence, he was cast out (Moses 4:4) and we were given the gift of agency: “Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.” (2 Nephi 10:23 ) We were not given limited agency; there is not a common asterix in agency scriptures which notes that sexual agency is limited to females, even though this seems to be the common teaching in church rhetoric.

Like many church leaders, I think Callister is likely teaching what he has been taught as a youth. He was probably taught—like my brothers—that agency is lost when men are around women unless they are in authority and the women are dressed modestly. That males do not have the luxury of the full Plan of Salvation, and that male agency is negated in sexual situations. In this line of though, I believe he is repeating the sins of his fathers, the sin that teaches that rape is an acceptable part the victorious celebration of war, that the clothes a woman chooses for herself can remove the agency of men, and that the battle of the sexes in Mormon culture means that the male should be the conqueror—meaning he is sometimes forced to rape. In this ideology, he has little need to try to exert agency when it comes to his own sexual impulses.

This line of thought teaches that women have agency in choosing what to wear, but men have no, or very little, agency. This is how, and for whatever reason, Callister and those like him, is teaching that the Plan of Salvation is not real based on his divine revelation that intellectual agency is limited to women. Is it not apostasy to teach something in such deep contraction to gospel fundamentals?  Does this ideology not challenge the sacred nature of the Atonement? I think it does.

There are many church teachings that are contradictory and problematic. But this contradiction of agency challenges the core point of doctrine that is rooted before the layers of Eden, marriage and The Fall even came to be. It has been an issue of mine for the majority of my life, and makes me question the authenticity of those who would teach that my morality is more harshly judged because of the foreordained ideology that females have bettered agency than males.  As a female, I have no authority in this church, and what I say will mean nothing to Callister, or those who teach that the Plan of Salvation has different rules based on gender.  But I still have agency. And with my agency, I reject this doctrine of plural Plans of Salvation, because this implies two saviours, and so far as I know, the angel who rejected the concept of agency was cast out.  Maybe someone needs to mention that fact to Callister.

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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44 Responses

  1. Jessawhy says:

    This is a great essay, Spunky. I love that you focus on the point of agency and explain the doctrinal, spiritual, and psychological problems with Callister’s approach.

    While Callister’s talk is terribly triggering false doctrine, I’m glad that you are able to hold it up to the light to see how damaging it really is. Hopefully discussions like this will happen in homes and influence young men and women to use their agency in god-like ways.

    Thank you.

  2. Emily U says:

    Thank you, Spunky, this is a valuable addition to the conversation.

    I hadn’t really thought of the Callister line of thinking as a bifurcation in the plan of salvation, but you’re right. It is just that. This sentence makes it clear: “This verse is often interpreted to mean that when women dress “provocatively”- that we forcibly remove agency from men, who then are coerced into raping us.”

    I never heard a YW lesson as awful as the one you had, but I do remember having the flower that’s been untouched vs the man-handled flower object lesson, and knowing intuitively at the time there was something wrong with that. I really think we are moving away from these damaging, false lessons, but then I’m reminded that the female purity rhetoric is still out there in talks like Callister’s. And in Friend articles about 5 year old girls covering their shoulders. I feel torn about this because I don’t hear these ideas spoken in my ward, but they’re very present in the corporate church. How do I exist in a church I at once feel the need to protect my children FROM, and that also has truth I want to bring them TO? I’m thinking of how sunlight is a good disinfectant, and that if you and I and others let our lights shine it will eventually clean up the false, dark doctrine that still exists in the church.

    • Bethany says:

      Emily U,
      I LOVE your thought that if we let our lights shine, it can clean up some of this false doctrine. I get scared and nervous to voice my feelings, but you have reminded me that I should let these feelings shine. There are probably many more, like me, who want to speak up.

      • Rachel says:

        Every single time I have spoken up, someone has come up to me afterward and thanked me. It is brave and vulnerable, but essential.

        And that exact thing you mention is one of the main things that gives me courage. If there are others out there who feel as I do, I want to make room for them, and help them know they are not alone.

  3. Em says:

    Thank you for this. I think that the more we say it the more it will enter the consciousness of the women who teach and lead in the YW organization. I can say that in my two years of service as the Laurels adviser we haven’t had anything remotely like this. Stake standards night is this weekend — hoping for good things.

  4. Ziff says:

    Great points, Spunky. I think this is another case (among the many) where the church would really benefit from some women in positions of real power. Another reason Callister teaches this stuff is that everyone around him is male, and it’s easy for them all to agree that yes, it’s those darn women dressing provocatively who are at fault, without ever imagining what it feels like from the women’s perspective. I’ll give them that: it’s hard to imagine other people’s experience. I’m a man, and I’m not so good at imagining what women’s experience is like. But if women were present in general leadership, it wouldn’t matter if the men there could imagine women’s experience successfully or not. Because some women would be there to be part of the decision-making, and call this type of teaching out for the harmful baloney that it is.

    Sorry that was a bit of a tangent.

  5. Big L says:

    You say that your voice on this is but a reverberation, which may be true, but I think every reverberation helps the message travel to more ears and hearts. The teachings in that Ensign article should be seen for the harmful nonsense that they are, but I don’t think the church membership at large are able to see that on their own yet. I wish it wasn’t so. It gives my stomach a sick feeling to think that Elder Callister’s line of thinking is still the accepted norm in 2014. On a brighter note though, I think the editors of the Ensign might consider more carefully in the future the messages that they further thanks in large part to the internet, a loud outcry, and reverberations of that outcry like your own. So, thanks for speaking up.

    • Corrina says:

      Big-L, I like your term “reverberation.” It’s important for us to “spread the word” on why these messages are wrong. But of course, in the most diplomatic and effective way as possible.

      For example, I’m going to forward the most recent Mormon Matters episode to my ward’s YW Pres. Dan Wotherspoon interviews Natasha Helfer Parker and Jennifer Finlayson-Fife on this issue (http://mormonmatters.org/2014/03/03/215-mormonisms-modesty-and-sexuality-discourse/). It’s a fantastic interview. I’m not sure how much my YW Pres has thought of these problems, but I think she’d be pretty open. I am very hopeful she’ll be receptive, especially b/c I’m the 14-15 yo Sunday School teacher and I can tell her this is important info for our callings.

  6. Eric Taysom says:

    Elder Callister does have a point. How we dress can have a powerful affect on the thoughts of those around us, but that goes for all of us. Like you, I disagree with the idea that women have a particular responsibility for the mental purity of men. That’s just nonsense. I have agency, the same agency we all share, and a woman’s clothing, or lack thereof, does not take that from me.

  7. Rob says:

    As a man I can readily attest that immodest dress does indeed create a temptation in my mind from which it is hard to not keep glancing. I can respect and even enjoy the beauty of women in a natural and pure manner. But, as a man, and I am not sure entirely why, but an immodestly dressed woman brings to mind great temptations. Not that agency is overiden or anything- it is about self control, its just that for most men I know, including myself, an imodestly dressed woman will attract the eye and bring temptation into the mind. To me, immodesty in public is a means of flirtation and wanting men to look at you and what you have. Women say they get tired of men starring at them but often times its because they are immodestly dressed and basically have a big fat target on them that says “hey all you guys, look at all I have to offer”.

    • LLH says:

      All adult women have breasts. Does it really matter if you can see a little more skin on one woman than on another? If you want your thoughts to wander, they can. Any time, any where, regardless of what the women around you are wearing. Women have so much more to offer than their body, and just because you can see more of a woman’s skin than YOU deem appropriate does NOT mean she is offering you, or any other man, ANYTHING. What you are offering here is nothing more than proof that this modesty rhetoric is all due to socialization and the accepted objectification of women in our culture. It is not ok and all men need to learn that.

      • Rob says:

        Just making an honest statement. Pretty much every guy will agree with me on this- if a woman wears very revealing clothing men will notice it and be more inclined to keep taking a glance. call it eye candy or whatever, but the truth is this- men will, by nature, look more at women wearing revealing clothing than women wearing modest clothing. Plain and simply- yes, men do get tempted wihen we see women wearing very revealing clothing. Of course men “don’t have to look” but then let me ask- why do women wear very revealing clothing? To get noticed- its that simple and true.

      • Anony2 says:

        If we want men to look at and try to understand our perspective do we not need to do the same for them? Rob isn’t saying men aren’t responsible for their own behavior (agency), but he’s being honest about how many men experience seeing a scantily clad woman. Many men I’ve spoken with have indicated that seeing women dressed this way does present a temptation (to look or think inappropriately). That doesn’t take away their agency, it just presents them with a choice of whether to give in or not. And I think its especially important to be modest at church because well, men go to church for worship and to be closer to God and it’s sad to have to experience temptation in that environment. And really, the women are uncomfortable too. I saw a woman once doing the music in Primary’s sharing time in a mini skirt. The shocked and uncomfortable looks on the faces of the women were obvious. And how about our own worship – isn’t it affected by our dress? I remember the difference it made in my spiritual life when I started sewing up those sexy slits in my skirts. I didn’t feel as sexy, but I did feel more beautiful.

      • spunky says:

        Rob,
        Hate to break it to you, but the majority of experts agree that the brain is the most powerful sex organ, not the eyes. Just because a woman is well-dressed does not mean she is asking for YOUR attention. I dress for myself, and what I think suits me and my body and personality. It is exceptionally arrogant of you to presume that women dress for you, personally, especially when you think something is aimed at attracting sexual attention from you.

        I think you are a victim of rape culture that teaches you that a woman not dressed to certain standards is trying to solicit sexual attention from you. I sincerely think you might benefit from some counseling to un-program your mind from this train of thought.

      • Art says:

        Rob is absolutely correct. Elder Callister’s comments are true. Instead of burying our heads in the sand or misrepresenting Church teachings on this issue, wouldn’t it be better to be honest about it and take responsibility for our part in the problem? Certainly requesting that all people, men and women, dress modestly and act appropriately is not asking too much.

    • Calliope says:

      “Women say they get tired of men starring at them but often times its because they are immodestly dressed and basically have a big fat target on them that says “hey all you guys, look at all I have to offer”.”

      You’re assuming you know the reasons behind why every woman dresses the way she does. But you can’t read their minds, and you can’t possibly know why they dressed a certain way.

      Women dress the way they do from day to day for a variety of reasons. And sometimes, women dress the way they do (and sometimes this may be clothing that you personally find revealing) because they just want to look nice. It’s not necessarily for you, and it’s not necessarily for any other man. It’s for themselves. Maybe it’s their favorite outfit. Maybe they just like wearing it. An outfit is not automatically a plea for “hey guys, check me out and all I have to offer”.

      Instead, you’re twisting it around and making it all about the men. Your line of thinking is basically “if she wore that, she must want to get checked out” and “if she wore that, she must WANT to get catcalled and harassed on the street”. Well, we don’t.

      “an imodestly dressed woman will attract the eye and bring temptation into the mind”

      A half naked guy on the beach attracts MY eye and brings temptation to MY mind. But then I move on and don’t dwell on it. You should try it sometime.

      • Anony2 says:

        I think you’re being a bit unfair here. Don’t get me wrong, I agree for the most part. I just think we can’t overlook the physiological differences between the sexes and how a half-naked woman affects a man differently than a half-naked man affects a woman. To say, “But then I move on and don’t dwell on it. You should try it sometime” when he’s trying to be honest in his contribution to the topic is pretty cold and condescending. If a man got on here and starting talking to us women that way we’d be pretty upset.

        I also believe you two have different ideas of “revealing clothing”. If you both could project an image of what you mean when you say that onto the computer screen they’d be very different. It seems to me that Rob is talking clothing that actually leaves little to the imagination while you seem to be referring to only a little cleavage or slightly elevated hemline that you think he may find too revealing. I could be off but that’s my impression after reading both of your remarks.

      • Rob says:

        lWhen I say “very revealing clothing” I am speaking of clothes like very very short mini skirts, thong bikinis, short shorts where the buttocks are half sticking out, low tops that show most of a womens breasts, etc. In our society its getting more and more acceptable to wear inappropriate clothing in public. I am not speaking of any clothing that a women can wear along with her garments or other types of beautiful clothing that greatly enhances a womans looks but are still appropriately covered. In honesty, a well dressed woman who is well groomed wearing appropriate clothing is extremely attractive to not only me but the majority of men. Both men and women who dress this way are actually more attractive on all levels. The difference is that a man or woman who dresses inappropriately really does send out the signals of being a sex object or bring to mind impure and immoral thoughts. Thus being so, we should all be careful in our dress andobey the Lords counsel to dress appropriately for the occasion. The truth is- it is upon our own shoulders on how we dress. If we wear very revealing clothing then we have already allowed ourselves to be seen as an object of immorlityrather than a temple of the Lord God.

      • MDearest says:

        The most simple and effective way to deal with someone who sends out these troublesome signals is to neutralize the signals in your own perception. Wishing to police the world into sending you “appropriate” signals is in itself inappropriate, not to mention impossible. Better to strengthen and grow your own perception, Rob.

        I recommend seeing a woman wearing booty shorts as a human being, someone’s daughter, sister, mother, and friend rather than as a object to fear/desire. This also applies to the woman who is “appropriately” covered, well-groomed according to your definition, and attractive, and as a bonus, it adds to your cachet as a decent human being.

      • spunky says:

        Rob,
        Please seriously consider getting help. You have a problem in presuming most men are like you, and see women in shorts, skirts and so on as “sending signals of wanting to be a sex object.” If you really believe this, you really need psychological help, fast!

  8. Jace says:

    I don’t think women should be held responsible for men’s behavior. That doesn’t sound right to me either.

    But Elder Callister never said men lose their agency. Or that they aren’t accountable for their own actions. That whole section of yours from agency to atonement is pretty convoluted. I don’t see a whole lot of evidence that Elder Callister was trying to get at principles of the Atonement or anything even close to that.

    Here are a few facts that are good to keep in mind. The way women dress does influence men. What you wear is a form of communication. Men have a responsibility to dress modestly as well. And of course men are responsible for their own behavior.

    • Emily U says:

      Elder Callister certainly didn’t say men lose their agency, but what Spunky is saying is that a loss of agency is what’s found at the end of the line for his type of thinking.

  9. Emily U says:

    I get tired of hearing people remind others that the way women dress can influence men.

    Who on this planet does not know that? Everyone knows that. When people critique the modesty rhetoric of Elder Callister and others, it’s not because they think modesty doesn’t matter!

    Modesty is a good thing for deeper, more complex, more subtle, and more personal reasons than just because the female figure is arousing to men. I am so tired of spending our collective precious time talking about modesty, but I may need to write a post about this!

    • Anony2 says:

      It just needed to be acknowledged in the blog entry, otherwise there’s potential for readers to think the author is missing that part.

      • spunky says:

        I’m not sure what you’re saying here anony2. I wasn’t talking about modesty in real terms, which is to live and dress humbly– to me, that means not seeking out designed labels. Certainly different dress attracts different responses– I am much less likely to ask the man in jeans compared to the uniformed flight attendant what the remaining flight time is. When I was single, I would look at the ring finger of a man long before I made the choice to be attracted to him and seek out his company.

        But all of these examples express intellect and agency; when we reduce men to being unintellectual because they can’t control their minds based on another’s clothing choice, we are doing a serious disservice to the concept of agency, and to men as a whole.

  10. MDearest says:

    This is a great post, another in a long series of posts I’ve read that is precisely on point, with the idea presented plainly and clearly (again!), and yet we still (always) have commenters who don’t get it. Maybe they need an example to follow.

    Whenever I see/read about a man struggling to preserve his purity in the face of (his perceived) attacks of immodest women, a friend of mine comes to mind. He manages a women’s sports team, and he’s around young women all the time who are dressed for training and competition, or getting ready, i.e in the locker room, or a hotel room. He’s a healthy heterosexual guy and yet he has himself in perfect control, it’s almost like he takes no notice of the almost constant lightly-clad healthy female bodies visible to him. I think there are several factors working in his favor. First, he’s a nice, decent guy, raised by goodly parents, and doesn’t feel a general sense of entitlement around women. It also helps that he has a healthy and mature approach to his own sexuality, and can distinguish that his coaching activity isn’t about sexuality. He’s also been exposed to enough feminist ideology that he is aware of a lot of the nonsense that women have to put up with regarding judgement of their appearance, and as a decent human being, would rather chew glass than contribute more of that nonsense. I expect that he has the occasional stray temptation, but he doesn’t dwell on it, and he’s got other work to occupy his mind, so it passes away without becoming a burden to anyone, especially him. He does this without involving blame or objectification. When a girl in a towel walks from the shower to her bag of clothes, he doesn’t even look up. That’s a grown-up man.

    What a contrast to this: “To me, immodesty in public is a means of flirtation and wanting men to look at you and what you have.” My dear, the next time you see someone in public who seems immodest to you, remember that it’s a blessing for you: a growth opportunity.

    • Rob says:

      I too have a lot of control. But that still doesn’t negate the fact that morals and dress codes are slipping into a dangerous area in this country. Men and women alike have a responsibility to dress modestly for the occaision present. When we dress immodestly or act immodestly- even if we “innocently” flirt (yeah, that how bad morals are these days) and send the wrong signals out we are after all inwardly and outwardly telling others its okay to be immoral or have immoral thoughts. We have a dress code in society for our own protection. We also have a moral responsibility before God and his angels to dress appropriately and not be an immoral distraction.

      Personally I find nothing immoral about anyone who is well groomed, well dressed and also attractive- thats perfectly godly. Its when they take their natural beauty and then use it in a revealing manner and flaunt it in society- be it man or woman.

      • spunky says:

        What country do you live in, Rob? It sounds scary.

      • MDearest says:

        The problem with that, Rob, is that you have judged, without even checking what the woman is thinking, whether a woman is flaunting her sexuality in your face. Sometimes a tube top is just a tube top, and doesn’t have anything to do with you. Sometimes grooming is more a function of class and upbringing and not about being revealing to anyone in particular. When you say “personally…” and follow that with judgement, you are applying your personal biases to others, and that’s immature, at best. It’s more mature to follow Christ’s example and look upon the heart (assume each person’s humanity and avoid objectifying) and take it from there.

        Trust me, women are not thinking about you when they get dressed each day.

  11. Anony2 says:

    I’m sorry I don’t know how to use html tags so if I do this wrong I apologize. The following is a quote from the article. “That males do not have the luxury of the full Plan of Salvation, and that male agency is negated in sexual situations. In this line of though, I believe he is repeating the sins of his fathers, the sin that teaches that rape is an acceptable part the victorious celebration of war, that the clothes a woman chooses for herself can remove the agency of men, and that the battle of the sexes in Mormon culture means that the male should be the conqueror—meaning he is sometimes forced to rape. In this ideology, he has little need to try to exert agency when it comes to his own sexual impulses.”

    I think when you go from Callisters’s: “The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men. If it is too low or too high or too tight, it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure.” to the above quote it is overkill and I don’t see how you can get to “meaning he is sometimes forced to rape”- because men are still taught in the church that that’s wrong and to not commit sexual sin. He’s also taught (or should be, and many are) to respect women. This one article doesn’t negate all these other teachings.

    I think what is wrong with the Callister article is that he does not address mens agency nor does he go into how men can be modest, he focuses mainly on the women. I know girls tend to be the ones to dress immodestly, but boys still have immodest fashions so the girls should not be singled out. He said, “Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self-respect and to the moral purity of men.” While this isn’t exactly wrong (and I totally agree about the self-respect part) he needed to add with emphasis that boys/men are still 100% responsible for their thoughts and actions regardless of any external factors.

    I sort of think of this as the “grace” vs “works” debate. Whereby are we saved? The Book of Mormon answers the question that both are valid and not opposed. We ARE saved by grace AFTER all we can do. Well, we women are responsible for our own modesty. Men are responsible for their own thoughts and behavior. Both are true statements. I think the mistake is in not talking about them simultaneously.

    As an aside, last year when my Primary lesson touched on modesty I of course talked about dressing modestly for girls. But then I asked the kids if it was possible for boys to dress immodestly too. They said yes! They (both boys and girls) then proceeded to give examples of immodest dress for boys (such as wearing pants below your underwear). I was quite proud of them.

    • spunky says:

      anony2,
      I agree that we need to equally address modesty with males and females. But I do not believe modesty is limited to dress and appearance, as per Deborah’s amazing modesty post. I also think it is imperative that the connection between Callister’s teaching and rape culture is made. Callister is teaching males that they do not have responsibility for controlling their thoughts when women dress in ways that some individual males might find attractive. When we give men permission to not have control over sexual impulses, then it really is just a few short steps between thought and action, between fantasy and rape. That is the connection, and why it is imperative to not teach males they have little responsibility in schooling their sexual thoughts regarding women. The Exponent II magazine has a brilliant article on this as well (see the article by Jennifer Finlayson-Fife).

      A few months ago, I stopped forcing my primary-aged daughters from attending Sunday school and primary because of some of the negligent teaching particularly coming from their Sunday school teacher. I am uncomfortable with how you have described that you have hinted at sexualizing all of the children in your primary class through the lens of “modesty”, and would have pulled them from your class as well.

  12. that is some pretty ridiculous stuff being taught there. as a man, i find it rather offensive to think that i have little control over myself in even the deepest midst of temptation. it is one thing to have desires enter your mind. it is another thing entirely to toy with fantasies or even act on them. what we should be teaching is that men not only have control but when they feel weak in their control they can pray to the Lord for strength to remain righteous. As a married man, I find it hard to look at other women as I do my wife. The lord says we are bothers and sisters. My wife is my confidant and the rest are my sisters. I dare not look with lust. I dare not toy with the thought. Should I feel weak, open my scriptures and read and pray. Should I have been foolish enough to have them handy, then prayer must and dues suffice. As for the rest of the men who are of the world, it is their upbringing that leads them astray, but even an old dog can learn new tricks. We can all progress. To not consistently try is just as bad as not trying at all. Thanx for blogging, I shall visit again.

  13. Rob Osborn says:

    I don’t need any help. We have a serious problem in th eworld with lowering moral standards and accepting the immoral and blaming everything else but where the problem really lays.This goes for men and women alike- when we dress we automatically are outwardly telling others what and who we are. If we are truly the saints of God- his children in his kingdom, then our very appearance should reflect that no matter what walk of life we come from or whatever our situation. If we dress like a gangster thats how people see us- as a gangster. If we dress like a slob then thats how others see us- as a slob. If we dress like a hooker then thats how other are going to see us- as a hooker. That all said. My parents generation who were trus saints of God always dressed modestly and covered their sacred private parts in public. We could learn a thing or two from them in our morally corrupt society. I myself never dress immodestly or dress in a flirtatious manner. Neither does my wife. Neither did my mother or father and neither did any of my brothers or sisters. We were raised to dress modestly- to dress appropriately and always look our best when out in public. That also meant that no baggy pants showing the buttoccks off, no slippers or pajamas to Walmart and certainly always wear a shirt and pants/shorts in any public establishment. I won’t let my own children go out in public wearing any revealing or other inappropriate clothing. Its just flat disrespectful- we werent raised like that, we are counsled not to dress like that and certainly our loving Heavenly Father is displeased when we treat our temples and display them like trash of which the spirit will not dwell within.of

    • Bones says:

      “…when we dress we automatically are outwardly telling others what and who we are.”

      Or, perhaps we are telling people something about our lives or activities. When I’m wearing a bikini, I’m telling people that I’m sunning and swimming at the beach. When I’m dressed like a “slob”, I’m telling people that I’ve been gardening, cleaning the garage, or painting a bedroom. When I’m shopping in my pajamas, I’m telling people that my child has a high fever, and that I ran to the store with no thought of appearances. That you want to make judgements about me based on my clothing, is more a reflection of your character than mine.

      • Rob says:

        A person can dress modestly and appropriately for any occasion including- weeding the garden, the late night run to the store for medicine, a day at the beach, etc. A persona can also choose to dress inappropriately for any occasion and we see more and more in society a myriad of cases where dress standards are in a state of moral decay. Why is it that it has become a big issue within even the church on how we dress, what we view or watch and pretty much all of the Brethren in SLC have come out more and more frequently to stress the importance of morals in how we dress, how we look, how we spend our time? Its becoming a problem. There isn’t a day that goes by anymore when i walk into a store, or at the gast station, or on TV and I see someone dressed inappropriately showing too much skin in a revealing manner and see people acting with immoral intent.I remember when I was a kid some 35 years ago and you never saw that in public like we do today. Its everywhere. Its like a plague in society. Our morals are in the toilet and until each one of us take heed to the Lords counsel or that which we know is right and start setting an example and stepping up to Gods moral standards then we are deserving of all the troubles that this kind of destructive morality brings to society.I honestly believe that each one of us can step up, make better choicesand live up to a higher moral code and certainly dress or keep our dress to a higher code. Not only will it uplift our own thoughtsbut it will uplift those we love and see everyday and give them cause to spread the good.

      • spunky says:

        Well said, Bones.

        Rob, I think everyone in the world, male and female, show too much skin for you.

        I really believe you need some serious help for presuming that everyone is trying to sexually entice you no matter how they dress, be it in pajamas (at Walmart, in countries that have a Walmart) or otherwise. This is the problem I addressed in this post– the idea that some men own the attitude that women ask to be sexually assaulted based on their appearance. You seem to agree with this. This is why I think you are psychologically unwell and even dangerous. Women and men do not ask to be sexually assaulted. No matter what they wear. Period.

  14. Rob says:

    I remember back in High school (I went to a second chance HS) I started wearing a button up shirt and tie to school quite frequently just to see what peoples reactions were. I was totally shocked to find that it had a calming effect in the classroom, I was treated with more respect and when i was called on to speak in class more people listened with real intent. Now, to keep in mind, I went to a school where 90% of the kids smoked (including myself)did drugs, came from abusive families, etc. I remeber one day the head teacher pulled me aside and intently asked why I was wearing such nice clothes to school (pretty much everyone had long hair, wore concert T-shirts and ragged pants and leather boots). I replied that I was doing it as an experiment and that it also made me feel good. The teacher said that she appreciated my example and the effect it had on people including herself. She said it felt as if I had true respect for them. That lesson taught me a lot about things in life.And ever since I have strived to make myself look as best as possible and carry a good moral character in all that I do. It also helped me realize that morals are not anyone elses fault but our own and each one of us can improve morals in society by trying to be betteron our own levels. I had a trobled teenager come and live with us and she was at that end of the rope where her own parents had disowned her because of her highly immoral and out of control behavior. The first thing I noticed was that she didn’t dress appropriately for her beauty. Me and my wife worked hard with her over the years to give her self confidence and to not dress and act inappropriately in public. She is now olderand has kids of her own and whereas she is still a work in progress, she still comes back time after time for our support and love. And we do love her.She is also coming to realize the truth that appearance and dress really does have a great impact on their own selves and especially in how others view her and treat her.

  15. Rob says:

    I think you have me wrong. I never said everyone is trying to sexually entice me. Where did that even come from? What I really said was that dress morals have been slipping out of control and that there are more and more people, of both sexes who wear immodest clothing, revealing too much skin, and people who are doing things that are immoral in public- be it on TV or in the world.I then said that how one dresses is how others are going to view them. And yes, it is a fact, that a woman wearing highly revealing clothes is going to get more glances by menand even bring temptation and sin into play. I then said it is up to ourselves how we act and what we choose and how important it is for us to take the initiative to dress appropriately and modestly in public and to obey the counsel already given to us through our holy prophets. If a person chooses to go out in public dressed like a hooker, that how people are going to view her and even how some will treat her. If a man goes out in public dressed as a gangster or thug that is how they are going to be seen and how some will treat him. The responsibility lies within each of us how we are to act and how we want to be seen and treated by others. How we dress does have a large impact on how others see us and treat us.

    • Spunky says:

      I think I have you pretty well pegged, Rob. You wrote:

      Pretty much every guy will agree with me on this- if a woman wears very revealing clothing men will notice it and be more inclined to keep taking a glance. call it eye candy or whatever, but the truth is this- men will, by nature, look more at women wearing revealing clothing than women wearing modest clothing. Plain and simply- yes, men do get tempted wihen we see women wearing very revealing clothing.

      Your definition of revealing is just that– YOUR DEFINITION. In places where Islam is the predominant religious practice, the definition of modesty is even more strict. My daughter attends a private Christian school where she is required to wear extra shorts under her layered uniform, and is forbidden to wear any make up. The uniform for many surf lifesaving schools in Australia is to wear a bikini bottom for females, and speedo for males. Modesty is in the eye of the beholder. Where I see beauty, you see sin and sexuality.

      When I was in India, there was a family living on the street close to our hotel. There was a woman, sometimes a man, and 3 children. The woman wore a traditional, though ragged and ripped sari, revealing her torso, as per tradition. The children only had 2 pairs of underwear for clothing. So they traded who was nude from day to day. Often it was the youngest, the boy. Other times, it was one of the girls. I still approached them daily and gave them food. I did not buy them clothes, because they would sell the clothes for food. Not once did I judge them on being immodest. Indeed, these people were infinitely more modest than garment-clad me and I look forward to the day when these beautiful souls stand in front of me as the meek who are to inherit the earth.

      I think your problem is that you see the world, and women, only in relation to yourself and not how God would see us. I agree with half of your sentence, “The responsibility lies within each of us how we are to act.” If your words are anything like your actions, you have a serious problem with judging others based on their physical appearance, which you see to often presume is only intended to sexually entice. I think this talk might be beneficial for you to study and comprehend under the concept of perceived modesty and judgement.

      I wish you well and I am choosing to disengage from you in fear that you might think I am hitting on you.

  16. Francesca says:

    There’s a reason prostitutes don’t normally stand on street corners wearing button up business suits or argyle sweaters with khakis and penny loafers…
    If you look at the number of sexual offenders in any neighborhood (look up your own and find them everywhere…) you can see that many people do not have the protection of innocent people at heart. Wearing modest clothing can be an added protection for women. Throwing around the term “rape” in this article and responses so casually is offensive to someone who was actually assaulted in this way, by a stranger, and I completely put his choices on him, but I could’ve better protected myself from the evil intents of this person in my case. I believe the more we do to live modestly in words, dress, thoughts- in entirety- we are further protected against the evils that will exists in the hearts of people. Some are striving for purity and being distracted. Others are striving for evil and looking for easy targets. In research by convicted rapists and murderers, the criminals stated they looked for people who could easily be attacked with clothing easy to remove, walking alone at night, vulnerable, etc…something they could do easily and quickly and get away with it… This has little to do with your accusations and huge illogical jump from immodesty to inviting and then excusing rape, but is insight to science about ways to protect oneself (and others) against harm, both spiritually and physically. I think that is always the intent of the lord and the lords servants.

    • spunky says:

      Francesca,
      I am so bitterly sorry to learn of the sexual assault committed against you. I am grateful for balanced and perfect Heavenly Parents who will judge us all accordingly, because my heart and mind only want to castrate and repeatedly beat the man who chose to do this to you. I find peace in knowing that our Heavenly Parents and Christ embrace you and find you are wholly absent of any wrongdoing in this situation. No woman asks to be sexually assaulted, no matter where her car breaks down, what rock concert she chooses to attend, what she has had to drink, or her wardrobe choices. I love you, Francesca, and pray you have the support and love that will progress the healing of the Atonement in erasing the pain of this event from your heart and mind. Please feel welcome here, you are loved and not judged.

  17. Melody says:

    Great essay, Spunky. Thank you!

    Rob and anyone else who feels women have an effect on men which causes men “to get tempted” — let’s talk about male gynecologists, shall we? I’m a registered nurse. Although I would love living in a world where every woman’s healthcare provider was female, that’s not the world we live in.

    With rare exception (for unethical and predatorial physicians) men see and touch women every day in this profession and they see women not as potential seductive threats, but as human beings. The women are not only “not dressed appropriately,” they are partially nude out of necessity. Yet, even a woman’s most private parts are treated with respect and care. By men. Who do not “get tempted.” That’s on you, brother Rob.

    “Pretty much every guy will agree with me on this. . .” I call BS. Plain and simple — you’re wrong.

    The problem you describe with “morals slipping out of control” has less to do with women and the way they dress than with the ever-intrusive male gaze, with which you seem to be personally familiar. That you even used the term “eye candy” suggests something about your misunderstanding of the issue. You are a product of the “traditions of the fathers.” Bad, bad traditions.

    This essay provides you, Rob, and possibly other men and women an opportunity to re-examine your perspectives. Here’s hoping you take this opportunity to do just that.

  18. Shred says:

    you are correct, men have agency just as women do. God is no respecter of persons and both genders are equal in the sight of The Lord, although they serve different roles and purposes.

    You have however grossly misinterpreted Elder Callister’s talk and have twisted and skewed his meaning. When women dress immodestly they present an unfair temptation to men who may not ask or want to see what a woman is presenting. This is because it takes effort to control one’s thoughts and actions. If a man is trying to keep his thoughts clean and suddenly he is seeing cleavage in front of him, it is now much more challenging to dispel an image that would not have been there if the woman was dressed modestly. The man’s agency must now be exercised (perhaps with greater difficulty) in order to choose whether to dwell on that image or not.

    For the woman who got raped when she was dressed immodestly of course the responsibility is not lifted from the man. That is absurd, anyone who thinks that is sorely misled. But if I drench myself in honey and sit by an anthill I’m kind of asking for problems aren’t I? The woman who dressed immodestly is inviting attention from men who are too weak or don’t care to control themselves and they are fully responsible for the consequences of their actions. But to remove the responsibility from the woman (which is essentially what you are saying) is hypocrisy at its apex.

    By the way, your laurel advisor was wrong. However men do think differently and it is thought that men respond more to visual sexual stimuli than women do.

    I have read some of your other stuff and I must say there is much you have misunderstood

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