Huntington Beach, CA
on the modesty culture script:
I wasn’t read the ‘Modest is Hottest’ script growing up. I lived three blocks from the beach and paraded around little bikinis when I was a kid. And as I got older, not having sex was less a matter of honoring your body and more a matter of not getting pregnant — because that was a total inconvenience.
When I think of the modesty conversation and purity movement, my concern is that the approach is a bit reductive. Shrouding a person in reams of cloth will not reframe their perspective on the value of their body or the appropriate ‘stewardship’ of their physicality. Being afraid of one’s body certainly isn’t the answer. But there is just as much danger in completely disregarding the reality that what we do with our bodies affects not only us, but other people as well.
A healthy, robust dialogue about the body and sexuality is important — not to make these issues cool or because it makes you an edgy youth leader if you’re bold enough to say ‘sex’ in front of the youth group.
But I think it’s important because it is very much a part of who we are and how we were created.
on bodies and influence:
The reality is that men and women can use their bodies to influence other people’s behavior. I think every man and woman is capable of that. You don’t need to be in a short skirt or shirtless or in a bikini. So I don’t think the modesty conversation — or whatever you want to call it — is really getting to the heart of the issue here, which is actually a matter of the heart.
on head tilts and hair tosses:
I will never forget the first time I realized the power of my body to not just influence other people, but really manipulate them and even shame them. I was at a coffee shop with a friend and saw an interesting looking man in a suit, working at his computer on the other side of the room. He caught my eye and we kept making eye contact. And then I played the ‘I wonder how he would respond if...’ game that women or girls can play, perhaps without being completely aware that that’s what they’re doing. You know, a tilt of the head, a glance, a smile, a toss of the hair — which in my case is rather dramatic. He didn’t respond much differently, and I’m not sure what I expected him to do, so I didn’t really think much of it.
My friend — who had no idea what had been taking place over her shoulder the entire time — and I left. I started my car and pulled out into the driveway. As we passed the coffee shop, I saw this man in a frenzied walk coming toward my car.
‘Oh no.’ That’s all I could say. My friend rolled down her window and he looked at me and said in a thick and admittedly beautiful accent, ‘Hi, I’d like to get to know you.’ You know how I responded? I shook my head, said ‘I’m sorry,’ and drove off.
A grown man running out to some young girl’s car. That wasn’t a confidence booster. I turned him into a game and won. I thought, ‘How could I have such little respect for a man I know nothing about?’ And why? Because I could.
It should also be noted that I was in a t-shirt and jeans — sufficiently outfitted for youth group or the church pew. But my heart? That was a mess.
on the inherent value of the body:
What does it mean to recognize the inherent value of my physical body — and everything that goes with that? Fully understanding what it means to be a human created in God’s image, and for there to be a sense of honor and respect tied to your body is a new and profound concept to me.
And I’m still coming to understand the immensity of that truth.