The Gospels and Rape Culture

By Andrey Mironov - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

By Andrey Mironov – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Despite the fact that the term rape culture–and the increasing attention devoted to it–are recent developments, that does not mean that the stories of the life of Jesus have nothing to say about the topic. In fact, there is quite a bit of material in the gospels which is relevant to the current discussion.


The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

Part of the discussion that we should be having with our children and others is that everyone has an obligation to intervene when someone is being or has been assaulted. This is a basic Christian obligation and it certainly applies in situations of sexual assault. As much as I am glad that these guys are being treated like heroes, I am a tinge disappointed that their actions are considered newsworthy–what they did should be considered par for the course, what any human being would be expected to do in a similar situation, and no more reason for a news article than someone who calls 911 when they see a car accident. Their response is praiseworthy, but it shouldn’t be exceptional; it should be the norm. Rape culture suggests that we “mind our own business” when faced with these situations.


Looking with Lust (Matthew 5:28)

It is common when sexual assault cases end up in court–or in the court of public opinion–that what the victim was wearing becomes an issue. Jesus did not say that what someone wore might be relevant in a discussion of assault; rather, he taught clearly that looking with lust was a sin itself and was entirely the responsibility of the one doing the looking. His teaching on this is clear, and it suggests that those who follow him need to place the entire blame for sexualized violence on the perpetrator, not the victim. But rape culture suggests that personal responsibility for violence might be mitigated based on how the victim dressed.


Women’s Idle Tales (Luke 24:11)

Of course men can be victims of sexual assault, but the majority of victims are female and one obstacle they face in their quest for justice is that it is unlikely they will be believed. There is a warning for us on this topic in, of all places, Luke’s story of the resurrection: the women are the first at the tomb, but when they report their findings to the male disciples, they do not believe them. This story should be a reminder that women’s stories should not be simply dismissed as unbelievable, despite social convention to the contrary which diminishes the witness of women. In the gospels, you literally cannot believe in the resurrection of Jesus unless you are willing to believe women when they tell you a story which seems, on the face of it, highly implausible. This is a significant component of the early Christian message. But rape culture teaches that women can’t usually be believed.


The Women in Matthew’s Genealogy (Matthew 1)

If you pay attention to the women in Matthew’s genealogy, you’ll notice that they all have one thing in common: irregular sexual histories (see here). It is, to put it mildly, deeply, deeply weird that Matthew introduces Jesus to us by linking him to women with these histories. This is significant: Matthew’s message is that, despite what had happened in these women’s pasts, they were not disqualified from being (1) included in Jesus’ lineage and (2) included in the record and presentation of Jesus; they were not hidden from view for embarrassment. Similarly, the sexual or personal history of a victim of sexual assault should have no bearing on how the court (or the court of public opinion) views the charges against the assailant. But rape culture suggests that a victim might have been “asking for it” or an assailant might not be particularly culpable depending on the victim’s personal history.


Calling Peter “Satan” (Mark 8:33)

Jesus chose Peter to be part of the Twelve and Peter is part of Jesus’ inner circle. But when Peter makes a mistake, Jesus does not shield him. He does not justify him. He does not take steps to protect Peter’s reputation or the reputation of his own ministry. He does not minimize the mistake or say that the good Peter has previously done outweighs or mitigates his mistake. Instead, Jesus calls Peter “Satan.” (Stop and sit with that for a minute.) Similarly, whatever previous good a rapist has done in his or her life, whatever embarrassment publicity about the assault would bring to the groups the perpetrator is affiliated with, it does not justify minimizing their punishment or mitigate the reality of their sexualized violence in any way. On the other hand, rape culture teaches that assault might be ignored or minimized if pursuing justice might embarrass anyone involved. It also teaches that we might not fully blame assailants if they have done other good things.


The Woman Taken in . . .  (John 8:1-11)

We usually assume that this woman was guilty of adultery, but the only evidence of that is the report of the scribes and the Pharisees. The language of the story suggests a real possibility that the woman was raped. And then after the rape, that she was used as a pawn by these leaders to further their own agenda. It is possible that she consented, but it is more likely that she did not. Note that Jesus’ response is not to condemn her. (Be careful not to over-read the “go and sin no more” line: if you didn’t make assumptions about what sins Peter was guilty of in Luke 5:8 when he calls himself a sinful man, then you probably shouldn’t make any assumptions about what sins this woman is guilty of.) Here, Jesus models not judging this woman. I think this is especially important in the face of the incomplete picture which the story provides. On the other hand, rape culture teaches that we have the right to judge and condemn victims of sexualized violence based on whatever details of their lives we discover.


Women and their Breasts and Wombs (Luke 11:27-28)

Let me provide a modern translation here just to be sure nothing is lost in the archaic language:

Woman in the crowd: Blessed is your mother’s womb, and the breasts from which you nursed!

Jesus: No, rather: blessed are those who hear the word of God and follow it.

The woman has praised Mary for her reproductive functions. Jesus rejects this praise of his mother and instead announces that Mary (and everyone else, for that matter) is blessed for hearing and keeping the word of God. Limiting women to their reproductive functions–even in praise of them–can exacerbate rape culture by emphasizing women’s sexual nature as the only relevant factor about them. Emphasizing women as disciples and full humans does the opposite. This is what we might consider the deep background of rape culture: someone raised to see women primarily as body parts is the kind of person who might commit a rape.



The term rape culture is of recent vintage. But the issues surrounding it go way back, and the gospels provide much material that should function as the cornerstone of the Christian condemnation of rape culture in all of its manifestations. Given the Mormon emphasis on agency, accountability, and the law of chastity, we should be at the forefront of countering the pernicious instances of rape culture in the world around us.


98 comments for “The Gospels and Rape Culture

  1. Thank you, Julie, for speaking of rape culture in the world around us, rather than in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have said before that there is no rape culture in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — there is nothing in the Church’s teachings or practices that justifies or minimizes or encourages rape.

  2. ji, I see some eruptions of rape culture in Mormon culture. It occasionally bleeds into our teachings, particularly on modesty. This is not the time for “all is well in Zion” talk; it’s the time to closely examine our thoughts and actions and be sure that we are being true to Zion culture, which–it is true–has nothing in its teachings or practices that justifies or minimizes or encourages rape culture.

  3. Thank you Julie. This is beautifully written. Reading about the recent Standford undergraduate rape leaves me feeling violated. Surely our Father does not want women to have to suffer so much at the hands of the men around them.

  4. Excellent. Quotable.
    I’m musing about how we might use this in class in a Church setting. I could probably make it work if I stuck to the lessons from the gospels and left out the term “rape culture”, and many would get it anyway. I am a firm believer in using and discussing the term, both with reference to our broader society and also Mormon culture, but it might get me booted from Sunday School. Would we lose too much punch that way?

  5. You can teach correct principles without using loaded words. Just show how kind the Savior was to women, and teach that He loves all of us, male and female, and encourage us to follow his example as shown in the New Testament. I don’t like it when teachers use church settings to indoctrinate fellow members in their pet philosophies or agendas — that’s what blogs are for.

  6. My one thought is that of modesty. Modesty is a standard of morality. Our western culture has created a sex culture based almost entirely off of the sexualization of women- creating a culture that views women as sex objects. The hard part is not falling victim to that cultural influence. The church places a high importance on dress standards so that we separate ourselves from immorality and worldliness.
    It is true that the overwhelming majority of rapes are to women. My belief is that women should take especial precautions to protect themselves from potential predators and situations that could endanger them. Being modest in dress goes along way to ward off potential problems. The culture we live in breeds immorality. We must counter and create a new culture of modesty and godliness.

  7. Pete,
    So, do you think women should all dress like hookers? Will dressing like hookers decrease sexual harrassment?

  8. “Being modest in dress goes along way to ward off potential problems.”

    No. No it doesn’t. We should all dress modestly because it is a commandment, but it is simply not true that dressing modestly wards off sexual predators. We want to believe that it does because we want to think that we can protect ourselves and those we love if we dress a certain way, but it is simply not the case. And perpetuating the myth that it does can increase the guilt of survivors–who internalize the message that if only they had had more clothing on, the assault wouldn’t have happened–so the end result is 7-year-old LDS girls asking their therapist if the reason they were raped is because their shorts were too short (not a hypothetical).

  9. Rob, I try to assume innocence when reading comments online. I assume the person is saying something that I may misunderstand for some reason or another and it just came out wrong.

    When I read your comment of “Being modest in dress goes a long way to ward off potential problems” I understand it to say “The way a woman dresses can influence the behavior of another” With all the respect I can muster I call “Horse Pucky” Rape is NOT based on attraction. It is a crime of violence against another human being. It is not based on what a woman wears. No, not EVEN a little.

    I was attacked as a young girl, i was 13 years old and I was dressed in an adorable, yet modest outfit. I was not exposing cleavage, and my skirt was to my knee. Someone said, and it has stuck with me for decades, “You were just dressed too cute” – ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? Because I looked cute I was attacked? No, I was attacked because a man decided he wanted to violate me.

    I was fortunate, I fought him off and was able to protect myself from unspeakable torment. Yet those words spoken haunted me for years, until that is i came to understand as an adult that victims are victims and assailants are assailants, and victims are not responsible for an assailants actions.

    Are there ways to protect ones self? Of course – park in well lit areas, avoid sections of town that are unsafe, go in pairs or groups, and any other number of common sense behaviors. But telling a woman to dress modestly as a precaution to protect themselves from potential predators is akin to telling a woman that if she dresses a certain way she is “Asking for it”

    I will assume that isn’t what you were saying. I don’t know you – but I trust you are a good person. I’m just saying that from this woman’s point of view, that statement says IF you dress a certain way you’re asking for it, and I say if a woman walks down the street Naked it doesn’t mean she is asking for it – it means she is walking down the street naked and probably needs to rethink her choice of clothing, or lack there of.

    I close my thoughts with this incredible quote from an incredible woman When Golda Meir was asked to place a curfew on women to help end a series of rapes, Meir replied by stating, “But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”

  10. “No it doesn’t” — I agree almost completely, but I think the too many ‘modesty’ debates can be faulted by extreme positions. To explain . . . it is probably true that the way someone dresses has some effect in some situations with some people. The problem is not that there is never an effect. The problem, in my opinion, is three-fold:
    (a) The effect is not reliable and not often enough to give us a useful for the future cause-and-effect relationship.
    (b) The effect of how we dress is period and culture and situation and time-and-day dependent, so that most generalizations are invalid.
    (c) No matter what the actual effect of attire, talking about it is itself the problem. Promoting ‘modesty’ in any group or public forum almost inescapably leads to statements or thoughts that shift responsibility from the attacker to the victim.
    I would hold tight to the Matthew 5:28 lesson. Full stop.

  11. Excellent and amen. This is a most valuable analysis and resource. Inequalities between the sexes appear to me to facilitate rape culture.

  12. Excellent piece, Julie.

    While I agree with ji that officially the church does not promote rape culture, it has been my experience that some people are into the blame game and making women responsible for thoughts that men might have. Some of the perverse notions of modesty out there are very unhelpful in that regard.

    I teach the Valiant 9s, and when one sweet girl walked in, one of the male students didn’t hesitate to inform her that her dress was inappropriate for Sabbath wear. Her dress was well below the knee and her shoulders were covered, but it did have some sequins in the fabric. Did that make it too flashy for church in his mind?

    And more importantly, where did he get the idea that it is okay for him to tell her what to wear?

  13. I am a long-standing Julie Smith fanboy and I appreciate her disciplined reading of the NT.

    That being said, when it comes to Jesus and the NT in general, rape culture is hard-baked into it through and through. Neither Jesus nor Paul preached against slavery in the world around them. Just the opposite, both were accommodating toward it. This is understandable to some degree since neither had appreciable power or influence to change law or custom and of course both were products of their respective circumstances. But to be tacitly or openly amenable to slavery in the Greco-Roman was also to accept sexual violence perpetrated upon children, women, and men in vast magnitudes. Slave status guaranteed sexual violence. Slaves themselves, the highly valued sort in courts of emperors and in households of wealthy elite, in turn sexually violated slaves of lower status or even slaves which they were permitted to own. Again, sexual violence underpins the cultures we see represented in the NT. We can look to the NT for select inspiration and backing of our progress in matters of sexual violence, but as an artifact of its own cultures and times it has severe limitations.

  14. Thank you for your insights Julie. As a church we cherish virtue as we strive for a true Zion Society. In a true Zion society there is no “rape culture” because Zion is the pure in heart.
    With that understanding, it’s important as modern Israel, to understand how Gods commandments are meant to protect our bodies, hearts and minds.
    One of Gods loving commands is to be in the world but not of it. As Latter Day Saints we are taught to dress in such a way that reflects our devotion to God and purity and does not focus on our sexuality, at least not in public. This is the core of what dressing modestly is about and we should be the leaders in our example.
    Modesty is in the heart and reflected in, not only how we dress before God our maker, but how we reverence our personal temple and the temples (bodies) of others. In Bible times men did not have their hair long like that of a woman, for it was shame to them. Christ’s hair length is usually depicted wrong. Women had different clothes than men. We think everyone just ran around in robes, but obviously by writings of the time, the robes looked different.
    In our time men and women all wear pants but women’s pants and shirts tend to be very different, thus keeping the distinction of male and female which God, in ancient times required.
    Many Middle eastern women still wear veils, some being forced to and others devoutly choosing to. Their choice to wear it as a sign of devotion should never be condemned by westerners who are often more concerned with fashion than true devotion to God. However, no matter how modestly we dress, it is not a guaranteed deterrent to rapist as Has been pointed out.
    However, with that said, and I say this as a woman myself, the more clothes one has on, and the more you keep your own faculties clear of inebriating substances, the less vulnerable you are. There are men, especially when under influence of drugs or alcohol, (as the recent case has shown) that will cave to their most base nature, that of a dominating male primate, and they will attack the easy targets like any wild animal who goes after the young and weak in a heard.
    God, knowing the base nature of primate species commanded us, not asked us, to separate ourselves from our base instincts and cover ourselves. When Adam and Eve entered the fallen world God clothed them, setting an example for each of us.
    In our time God has, for those who have chosen to live by higher laws and receive His endowment (gift), given us a covering, the holy garment, as a guideline for dress in our day and a spiritual protection from the power of the destroyer (Satan). If we keep our hearts clean before him we will want to dress clean and modest before him too. How modesty is interpreted fully is between the individual and God. The more important purpose of the garment is spiritual protection and only works as we are faithful to Gods commandments, chief among them to love God and our fellow man. With out love, keeping the commandments holds no promise.
    So the length of ones sleeve does not determine modesty of heart (or else we would all be wearing pioneer length clothes today to cover the longer type garments the early Saints wore) or faithfulness to God and certainly not the love one has in their heart for others.
    We as a culture need to stop singling out women and men, not of our faith especially, who wear less clothes than us or shorter sleeves, by saying it’s not modest. I made this mistake as a young mom but have changed my wording over the years.
    We simply wear slightly longer sleeves and dresses to not expose our sacred garments. I see plenty of nice modest clothes that have no sleeves or have lengths above the knee. They are meant to help women look pretty, not necessarily like she’s on the prowl for a sexual encounter. There are plenty of “sexy” clothes that one can wear with garments too. This is why I ABHOAR the use of the term “Modest is hottest”. Modesty does not focus on sex or sexiness. “Hot” used in this form is a slang term describing someone sexually attractive.
    Sadly our society today is no longer ok using handsome or pretty. Focusing on a persons “hotness” only increases lustful thoughts and takes away from virtuous ones.
    The intent of what we wear is the true determination at the heart of modesty. God wanting to protect Modern Israel, especially in these last days, has commanded us to be not of the world and dress differently, modestly. It may not fully protect us but, as like in any flock or herd, we need to be looking out for each other, snd by so doing we will be less vulnerable in the flock of Christ’s fold, both spiritually and physically, than those who know not God’s law, disregard it, or wander off alone.
    The true mindset and heart of modesty can only be obtained through the spirit. Imagone how much safer and cleaner our world would be if the sanctity of virtue was as profitable to society as sex. Since sex sells it has become our ruin as our society at large focuses on it instead of virtuous principals. If as a society we were focused on virtue and honor then a young man would not have gotten drunk at a party and made the worse decision of his life that forever changed and injured the life of a beautiful young woman who herself made a simple mistake in judgement when drinking, as she pointed out, that put her at greater risk because she unwittingly got drunk too.
    We were blessed to have the Word of Wisdom revealed when it was so that we as a people would be prepared for our day when alcohol destroys so many lives.
    The Lord in His mercy wants to protect us and so He commands His people to be in the world but not of it. There would be NO rapes if we all obeyed Him. Zion is the pure in heart and we are far from that. Only those who understand through the spirit how to love and Live Gods commands, will be worthy to live in the New Jerusalem. The true Zion society.
    Till then we live in a fallen world which is harder and harder to keep ourselves unspotted from.
    God bless us all to have a deeper understanding of the meaning “pure and virtuous” principals. Only by doing so will we all have power in the Priesthood to rise above the evils of this world in heart, mind and strength and rid the world of rapists once and for all.

  15. Mike, you are–of course–correct that rape culture permeates the ancient world. I would note that it is far more explicitly condoned in Paul’s writings than in the Gospels, however. And the fact that Jesus re-images the servant/serving language (in Mark, as the core description of his ministry, nonetheless!) is very significant. And, as I hope the original post suggested, several instances from Jesus’ life can make huge cracks into the edifice of rape culture as well.

  16. Thanks for sharing Julie. On John 8, can you share additional articles/thoughts/links? You are obviously correct when you say that the only evidence that she committed adultery is the words of her accusers. I’m unaware of evidence that suggests she was assaulted and would be interested in reading/hearing that evidence.

    Somewhat related point, my understanding is that this particular story may have been added to the gospel of John centuries after the “original” gospel was written. What do you know about that.

    Others with knowledge on these topics are welcome to chime in.

  17. My sentiments exactly to Mother in Zion. Modesty is about separating ourselves from spiritual Babylon and inviting the spirit with us as an added protection. When I was a teenager, I went out with a girl for several years. She basically dressed like a hooker most of the time. It constantly irritated her that a lot of random guys would come on to her asking her for sexual favors, even some trying to grope her. It got so bad that she was suspended from school because she was causing a distraction and causing sexual harrassment issues. At several parties random guys tried to take advantage of her. My family had some positive impact on her and she started dressing more modestly. Immediately she no longer had random guys sexually harrassing her and asking for sexual favors. I was a part of that, I seen the difference firsthand. From a male perspective I know for a fact that in general, the world and the low lifes that inhabit it will respond exactly to how one is dressed and how they act. If a woman dresses as a hooker she is going to be resonded to as if she is a hooker with the sexual harrassment that goes along with that. That is a fact- I witnessed it firsthand. I also witnessed firsthand that when we dress modestly and godly we get an entire different response from people. When I was in high school my best friend was killed in a tragic skateboard accident. After that I started wearing Sunday dress to school one day a week. I was blown away by how people reacted and acted around me when I dressed like that. My classmates didnt swear or tell dirty jokes around me, they smiled more, they tried to act and think more godlike around me. Yes- it is a fact that both male and female alike do control the thoughts and actions of others in our dress and appearance in large degree.

  18. It doesn’t matter. Even if modestly does protect women, it is not a moral imperative. The moral imperative is to not attack/harrass women. Modesty isn’t relevant to this discussion. But if you think a woman dressed “like a hooker” is somehow more deserving of sexual harassment, then you are part of the problem.

  19. Charitably, Rob: “Being modest in dress goes a long way to ward off potential problems.” Not true. The elderly and infants/children and nuns…have been/are raped.

  20. Some stuff from outside the Gospels too, and uniquely Mormon sources:

    JST, Genesis 19:9-15

    9 And they said unto him, Stand back. And they were angry with him.

    10 And they said among themselves, This one man came in to sojourn among us, and he will needs now make himself to be a judge; now we will deal worse with him than with them.

    11 Wherefore they said unto the man, We will have the men, and thy daughters also; and we will do with them as seemeth us good.

    12 Now this was after the wickedness of Sodom.

    13 And Lot said, Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, plead with my brethren that I may not bring them out unto you; and ye shall not do unto them as seemeth good in your eyes;

    14 For God will not justify his servant in this thing; wherefore, let me plead with my brethren, this once only, that unto these men ye do nothing, that they may have peace in my house; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

    15 And they were angry with Lot and came near to break the door, but the angels of God, which were holy men, put forth their hand and pulled Lot into the house unto them, and shut the door.


    “This” in vs 12 IMO refers specifically to the reasoning and its conclusion in verse 11. Namely, that rape was an acceptable form of punishment for trespassing the social norms of Sodom. Also vs 14 calls out specifically Lot’s responsibility to defend his daughters (no matter how they were dressed). David’s responsibility and ultimate punishment w.r.t. Bathsheba was not diminished by how she was dressed at the time.

    And, from the Book of Mormon:

    Moroni 9:9-14

    9 And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—

    10 And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.

    11 O my beloved son, how can a people like this, that are without civilization—

    12 (And only a few years have passed away, and they were a civil and a delightsome people)

    13 But O my son, how can a people like this, whose delight is in so much abomination—

    14 How can we expect that God will stay his hand in judgment against us?


    Indeed. As society gradually grows more righteous (see Jacob 5), this stuff will weed itself out, but until then I think it’s imperative that we as Mormons strenuously work to abolish any notion that the scriptures, or Mormonism, ever support the concept that a woman or man “deserves” to be violated sexually, for any reason.

  21. Rob,

    When I was a teenager, I went out with a girl for several years. She basically dressed like a hooker most of the time.

    So why did you continue to date her ‘for several years’ if her dress offended you so much? I think that says as much about you as it does her.

  22. Um, your experience is an anecdote, not a fact.

    Do you blame Elizabeth Smart for the way she was dressed?
    How about an 80-year-old grandmother who is raped? (not an uncommon occurence)

  23. Raping hookers is still rape, and still evil under pretty much every definition of the word and any morality us Mormons care to claim. Excusing actions just because someone’s dress puts them into some sort of “undesirable” category is indefensible. Labeling any group of humans as “undesirable” is indefensible. So, a.) calling a girl a hooker because of how she dresses, and b.) assuming that “hookers” want sexual harassment are both morally wrong. That’s the thinking of Sodom.

  24. Rob, I was sexually assaulted multiple times as a young women while attending my LDS ward. The man who assaulted me was a worker in the Chicago temple and took the opportunity to sexually assault me while our youth group was performing baptisms for the dead. I am pretty sure that what I was given to wear while performing those baptisms was fairly unhookerish.

  25. Rob, I’m going to take your story at face value about how your girlfriend dressed and was treated. What I see missing from your post is your outrage at the men who disrespected her. Hopefully you helped shore up her sense of self-worth that she didn’t deserve that kind of treatment regardless of what she was or was not wearing. Let’s stop putting the onus on women to dress a certain way to ward off sexual harassment/assault and start putting the onus on men to treat women with respect without regard to what they are wearing.
    Also, this line that she was “causing sexual harassment issues” is the definition of rape culture. She didn’t cause anyone to sexually harass her. The only cause of the sexual harassers were the men (boys) who decided to sexually harass her. Full stop.

  26. Can we get something clear? Rape is a violent crime that uses sex as the weapon. Rape is about power and entitlement not about sex, sex is the weapon that is used. Alcohol is an easy tool to use to incapacitate and prey upon someone, modesty talk is another tool a rapist can use to make someone feel shamed and guilty for an act that is in no way their fault. Before Ted Bundy died he did an interview blaming pornography on his choice to rape and murder women. He was a sociopath and that entire interview was a huge lie and excuse, but he was a master manipulator and said exactly what he knew the interviewer wanted to hear. I still see people posting that interview on Facebook as a displaying the evils of pornography. Rapists will make any excuse in the book if they think it will get them off the hook, make them look sympathetic etc. The Savior understood the human experience and this post is about how he taught through words and example a better way to not only live, but to look at others and situations from a different point of view…God’s point of view. To make any kind of excuse for the rape and victimization of another is reprehensible.

  27. Rob — I don’t dress like a hooker. I’m a 57-year-old woman who always wears skirts (I don’t even own a pair of slacks), and they are always to my knee or below. I don’t show cleavage. I don’t wear tight clothes. I don’t walk in such a way that anyone could mistake me for a hooker.

    And yet one year ago (April 6, 2015) as I walked along the LDS campus on North Temple, in Salt Lake City, a member of my Sunday School class, an older man, a former bishop and former missionary and former who knows what else, pulled up next to me at an intersection, lowered his window, and called out to me using exactly the words and tone of voice you would expect him to use when soliciting a hooker.

    He thought his degradation of me as a woman was funny. I felt abused and disrespected, and threatened (not physically, but emotionally and spiritually). That, and previous horrifyingly inappropriate statements made in the chapel by the same man, was enough to make me finally complain to the bishop, who talked to this man. (I gave him a social out by pretending I wasn’t sure it was that man. But it was him, and I knew it, and judging by the way that man avoided me for weeks, he knew I knew.)

    So: To claim that a woman who dresses modestly gets an “entire[ly] different response” than when she dresses immodestly is demonstrably false. This is rape culture, and it exists in our chapels and on the Church campus and among former bishops. The way a woman dresses and moves — the entire well-known pattern of a woman’s life — is not enough to protect her from humiliation and sexually predatory behavior.

    Your limited male experience isn’t broad enough to speak as definitively as you do — a single contrary example (and there are far more than one contrary example) is enough to destroy your claims.

  28. That link is interesting, but not very convincing. Jesus is merciful with all of us, even the vilest of sinners. So that He would be merciful to the woman isn’t anything particularly telling about whether she was committing adultery or not.

    As for the shiftiness of the accusers, that is also easily explained. They clearly want to make themselves appear as being strict proponents of the Law, but they are in the very act of not fulfilling it even as they are trying to confront Jesus with a choice to break either Mosaic Law (which has the penalty of death for BOTH adulterous partners) or Roman law (which forbid Jews from passing capital punishment decisions). The woman and. the man should be brought before Jesus for judgment, not just the woman. They know this. They know Jesus probably knows this. So they’re probably hoping he doesn’t probe too deeply, otherwise they will stand revealed to the public. They are corrupting the Law itself. As Jesus repeatedly says, they’re hypocrites. So that explains the tension around them.

    So I see no reason in the text to doubt the fact that the woman was taken in adultery. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t an example of possible rape culture here. These Jewish leaders are all to ready to kill this woman while either punishing the man much.less severely, if at all. That is your rape culture. Jesus undoubtedly recognizes this and this may be a partial reasoning for why He refuses to.even take part in what appears to be a sham trial, for Hos own sake and for her own.

  29. Yes, blame the woman for her being treated in a particular way. It must be nice to take away your responsibility and that of others: *she* caused men to test her poorly, simply with how she dressed. Just like Lehi said, men are made to be acted upon. Those horrible women causing so many men to not respect her as a person…

    This is not “fact”. This is self-righteous mysoginy draped in a horribly simplistic view or morality that excuses men and gives way too much power to women”s bodies and dress.

  30. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to think that catching an unmarried man and women in the act of sex, the Pharisees would have jumped to the conclusion that it was adultery, without considering whether it was consensual. Additionally, maybe in their minds, any woman who didn’t die resisting (our something like that) was somehow consenting and thereafter l therefore guilty of adultery, so maybe in their minds adultery and what we call rape were not necessarily mutually exclusive categories. Entertaining these possibilities–as possibilities, not as the only possibility–is not unfaithful to the text.

  31. Thanks juli. I’ve actually read several interviews with rapists who say they target modestly dressed women purposefully because they seem more submissive, less likely to fight back, and more likely to feel ashamed afterwards and not talk. They do think these things through- it’s not like an otherwise nice young man will be driven to rape by the revelation that breasts exist.

  32. As an attorney, I have seen sexual assault cases from the perspective of both prosecution and defense. There should be a culture in which victims are believed and victims are not blamed for the horrible things that happen to them. Yet often this does not translate into successful prosecutions. I would argue that this is not necessarily the result of “rape culture,” per se but rather that sexual assault is enormously difficult to prove, especially when one and often both parties have consumed large amounts of alcohol and memories may be hazy all around. While we often think of consent in subjective terms, the case often comes down to whether there were objective indicia of consent, regardless of the victim’s subjective intent. That is to say that reasonable mistake of fact as to consent is a valid defense to the crime of sexual assault. Of course this does not mean that any victim was “asking for it.” But at least in a legal context it means that the behavior of the victim is always relevant to a greater or lesser degree.

  33. I think it’s at least as likely that she was being raped as that she was having a consensual affair simply because there was no concept of a woman’s sexual consent having any importance at all at the time. A woman was either a virtuous virgin or virtuous wife. Any other form of sex, regardless of her desire, was a sin and a stain on her. The crime of rape, what little existed, was seen as a crime against another mans honor (the woman’s husband or father, usually) which could be solved by payment for damages or the rapists marrying the victim. It’s still this way in many cultures today. I give it at least a 50/50 chance that the nt situation was what we now think of as a rape, because that was included in the definition of adultery with no language to indicate consent or consider it important at all.

  34. Except for the fact that children and women continue to be raped whether they’ve got little clothing on or they are clothed from head to foot. Do u think rape and other forms of sexual assault in Afghanistan, Indonesia or in the middle east because afterall, they are by a good stretch more modestly clothed than their western counterparts? The fact of the matter is rape is about power. It’s more to do do with attitudes that some men or some culture hold that put women on an inferior position. That even if she is the victim, she is still at fault. It’s got nothing to do with being modestly dressed. It has to do with what’s going on in a man’s head which is informed by the culture toxic masculinity and the treatment of women as the weak and inferior gender.

  35. Im not saying dressing modestly is a 100% failsafe against sexual harrassment or rape, Im saying that modesty goes along way to preventing scenerios and possibilities that include sexual harrassment and rape. To say that the way a woman dresses has no effect on a mans mind and actions is ludicrous. We know that there are perverts and sex crazed men in society who are on the constant prowl for sexual encounters. I know that Im not going to allow my daughter to go out into this perverted world dressed like a sleaze. Just the other day I was in the local corner gas station. It was fairly busy and in walked two younger women. They appeared to be sisters, lookubg very similar. One was dressed very modestly and the other was wearing a very very short skirt, high heels and lots of makeup. The guy in front of me looked instantly at both and then gazed intensly at the scantily clad girl, turned to me and said in a tone only the two of us could hear and said- “look at that fine p$#$@#, how would you like to f#$* that” then he giggled and licked his lips. This is commonplace folks, its reality. Im being honest for your benefit. A certain percentage of guys talk this way and are on the constant prowl for these encounters with imodestly dressed women. And, I have witnessed on a myriad of occasions, many a woman using imodesty to flaunt her body in front of men as if it was a tease. It happens, its reality. There is a reason strip bars are highly profitable. We do have an impact on others thoughts and actions.

  36. One very important thing that needs addressed is that part of this “rape culture” must include the reality of the perversion of lusting for sex fantasy in a high percentage of males which mental triggers are triggered by immodestly dressed women.

  37. BTW,
    The term “rape culture” is a term coined by feminists some 30+ years ago. One of the effects of this movement is the belief that “modesty” fuels the fire for further rapes to continue. The byproduct is of course that women have every right to be immodest and in fact should be immodest. Slutwalks have trended towards the extreme now for women to protest through nudity and immodest clothing that its their right to be immodest in public and must be accepted.

  38. We don’t need you to make up anything more “for our benefit,” Rob. Your impact on our thoughts and actions doesn’t flatter you.

    Just stop already.

  39. “The guy in front of me looked instantly at both and then gazed intensly at the scantily clad girl, turned to me and said in a tone only the two of us could hear and said- “look at that fine p$#$@#, how would you like to f#$* that” then he giggled and licked his lips. This is commonplace folks, its reality.”

    It’s “commonplace” when men aren’t taught to respect women. No one is arguing that stuff doesn’t happen. The issue is blaming the woman in the situation when it does. 100% of the fault lies with the man in your example. Nobody forced him to make his lewd comment to you or to think whatever else he was thinking. Just because it happens doesn’t make it right, acceptable, or something that shouldn’t change post-haste. This is a textbook example of “rape culture”, and here’s why:

    1.) The man is presumed to be out of control and can’t change his behavior. This is both demeaning and degrading to men, many of whom use this sort of thinking to excuse their actions. There is absolutely no excuse for a man to ever behave this way. Many men know that and behave accordingly. Those who don’t have zero excuses and need to change.

    2.) The woman’s dress is the “trigger”, therefore the woman is responsible to some degree for how the man acted in this situation. This is “blaming the victim” and is completely wrong. The assumption that a woman who dresses as described is a “sleaze” or trying to “flaunt her body in front of men as if it was a tease” is just that, an assumption, and one that is handy for shifting blame to the woman. Definitely not what Jesus would do.

    3.) Modesty is about avoiding pride and (this is the important part) _cannot_ be judged by anyone other than yourself. Am I being modest is the right question. Is someone else being modest is the wrong question. The problem with most of the “modesty” issue in society lies in this projection of person a’s concept of modesty onto person b. That’s how the modesty issue plays into “rape culture”, because this projection is yet another way for men to blame women for men’s behavior.

  40. I know the discussion of modesty began much earlier in the thread, but I wanted to add a thought. Yesterday our family had a beach outing in Valencia, Spain, where we live. We’re generally at the beach at times when it’s less crowded (weekdays, evenings, etc.), but yesterday was very warm, so there were lots of people there, and a good number of them were women. Bikinis are the norm here (the only non-bikini I noticed was on my daughter-in-law), and going topless is seen with some frequency. Of the dozen people within 20 feet of us, there were two women topless–one sunning herself, and one standing and eating a sandwich while talking with another woman and a man.

    As I expanded my view a bit and watched the many bikini-clad or topless women, I also watched the men. There was not a single man there who appeared to be out of control. No attacks were made–no women were raped. No one confronted anyone, no one scolded in outrage. People walked, swam, placed a little soccer. The sun shone on the naked and the clothed (though the clothed had less need of sunscreen).

    I can’t answer for the thoughts of any of the people at the beach–there may have been men who were looking with lust. The point is that everyone managed to control their actions. Focusing on what people are wearing as a determiner of what other people are doing seems to me to distract from more important concerns.

  41. Rob, I think you perhaps are projecting a bit? It may be that “immodestly” dressed women (whatever that even means) trigger YOUR inappropriate thoughts but it does not therefore follow that ALL men are likewise incapable of controlling their thoughts, or even more importantly, their actions. To be blunt, Rob, the time has come for you to focus on your own inappropriate behavior rather than blaming the women around you for your failings. Lori’s comment below provides one example of men controlling themselves when confronted with *gasp* topless women, which you could strive to emulate. However, it is clear you struggle to see women’s perspectives as valid so, should you need a man to help you understand what to do next, I invite you read Luke 4:23.

  42. Andrew,
    The problem is that from your angle, being a sleaze in society is not only a right but should be upheld above modesty standards. Under that train of thought, if it is continued, immodesty in public is a special right that no law should mess with and all women and children have the special right to be viewed as sex objects. Under that poor paradigm it only adds fuel to the problem. I know there are perverts in this world and my children will not be dressing immodestly for their viewing pleasure. Suit yourself though.

  43. Rob, you appear to be one of those perverts in the world. If you want to prove that statement wrong, it seems like it would be best to stop this weird, obsessive modesty rant that you have – that has almost nothing to do with Julie’s well-thought out post.

    Much like some of those Trump supporters who seem to believe that EVERYONE thinks the awful racist things that go on only in their own heads, you appear to have generalized from your own flawed psychology. It’s an ugly look, and you are wrong to assume everyone else is just hiding it.

  44. Megan,
    You are way off base. I am no pervert. I am very worried though that feminism will entirely destroy womens morality and modesty. Do you think I am off base to teach modesty standards to my children so that they have respect for themselves and arent viewed as mere sex objects in the world?

  45. Rob, the key to avoiding objectification and sexualization of women’s bodies is NOT found in teaching women to “cover up”. The key is teaching men to respect women, no matter what they are wearing. When we teach our boys that women’s bodies are not objects for their consumption and our boys behave accordingly, the question of modesty will be moot. This is the point you seem unwilling or unable to grasp. The problem is not women’s clothing (or lack thereof). The problem is that people, primarily men, use clothing choices as an excuse to objectify women. Try repeating this as a mantra when you are tempted to go off, yet again, on a meaningless modesty rant: “The problem is not clothes. The problem is me.”

  46. Yes, Rob, you are way off base. You say you want to teach modesty so that girls aren’t viewed as mere sex objects. How much time and energy do you spend teaching men not to view women as sex objects as compared to how much time and energy you spend preaching modesty? Be honest with yourself: how often do you call out men for being lustful compared to women dressing unmodestly? When that man made lewd comments about the one sister did you tell him how inappropriate it was? Or did you just let it go, blaming the girl in your mind instead of calling out the true problem — the man’s lewd comments?

    An obsession with modesty does not decrease turning women into sex objects; it actually increases it. An obsession with modesty has the underlying premise that women are such sex objects that we have to cover them up to protect men from having sexual thoughts about them. The foundational idea of obsessive modesty is that women are sex objects. This thread has turned into a perfect example of this: here we are, dealing with your obsession with modesty and all of the talk is about how women’s bodies are the causes of sexual thoughts in men. You’ve turned women into sex objects.

    If you can’t walk around society without seeing women and thinking to yourself “dressed like a hooker” or “sleaze” or the other sexual loaded terms that you’ve used to describe dress in this thread, then the problem is much more about your relationship to a woman’s appearance than the women themselves. You are looking at them as sex objects, coupled with a negative judgement, and then blaming them for what’s going on in your mind which makes you feel perfectly justified. It’s not right, Rob. Can you imagine walking past a women who is dressed immodestly and not even noticing? That’s the goal you should strive for and the work you should do. To get there. you’ll have to notice your own reactions when you see such a women and own them instead of passing the blame to her. They’re your thoughts — you have to control them. Lust is no different than the other negative thoughts and emotions.

    An analogy is anger. If someone insults us, our natural reaction is to get angry. Yet Christ said to turn the other cheek. Christ is not going to accept the excuse that we beat the guy up because he insulted us. He is going to tell us that we should have turned the other cheek. Likewise with lust. If a women is dressed in a way that might naturally promote lust in men, her dress is not an excuse for men to be lustful. We have to turn the other cheek and control our thoughts.

    Perhaps this is what you should be preaching to men instead of spending inordinate amounts of time obsessing over modesty.

  47. Dude, that is so not the relevant question here. I’m just saying – you seem to have a fixation. You seem to think it’s normal. It’s not.

    If it weren’t mildly disturbing, your train-wreckiest of train-wreck comments would be almost humorous. Good luck with your fixation on modesty. Should you ever want to fixate on something useful, I would suggest self-awareness.

  48. Don’t you all know Rob is a troll?!? His MO is to go on all the bloggernacle sites and spout this horrible rhetoric. He has been banned from at least one (check out his latest spew on Wheat and Tares.) He also likes to bang the “we need more rules for the Honor Code at BYU to keep people safe” drum. He’s a delight but don’t feed the troll.

    His comments just tend to prove the point how the modesty rhetoric reinforces rape culture. Way to go, Rob. Thanks for being the shining example of what not to be.

  49. Why is it that the mention of “modesty” drives people mad? We are headed for a massive train wreck of immorality.

  50. Rob, what you are not understanding is that even hookers do not “deserve” to be sexually harassed. Consent is still the all-important, governing principle, even when considering a hooker. She must consent. Those who grope her are assailants and bear the full responsibility. They cannot transfer accountability for violating the woman by saying that how she was dressed “caused” them to do it.

  51. Rob, by saying this, you are blaming rape victims for their rapes, essentially saying that if they had dressed differently, maybe they would not have been raped. This shifts the focus completely away from the rapists and onto the victims. Rapists are completely 100% responsible for their actions. The way a woman is dressed is completely irrelevant and can in no way be said to “cause” a man to rape a woman. It is evil to blame a rape victim for her rape. And it is factually incorrect. Millions of women wearing burkas are being raped all the time all over the world. It happens when men, whether their husbands or others in their circles, have sex with them without their consent. In those cultures, even if the woman is completely covered by a burka, the men often say — just like you — that the woman’s eyes were just too sexy and so the rapists couldn’t resist. In other words, the way a woman is clothed is irrelevant — the rapist will still blame the woman for “causing” him to rape her by being too sexy even when she is completely covered.

  52. The byproduct is of course that women have every right to be immodest and in fact should be immodest.

    Rob, women absolutely have this right — the right to dress however immodestly they would like. If you wish to take this right away from them, then what does that say about your commitment to freedom?

    Also, you should realize that often rapists do *not* rape the (so-called) immodestly dressed women (immodesty is in the eye of the beholder, no? — if you see a woman and decide she is immodestly dressed, aren’t you the one with the problem?). Rather, rapists often target the more modestly dressed women because they believe they are more docile, sheltered, ignorant about consent, and will be too scared or ashamed about being raped to report the rape.

  53. Rob, you need to focus on your own thoughts and let women dress however they think is best, as adapted to the context. What we’ve lost in our church culture about “modesty” is any notion of context.

  54. Rob, your comments absolutely reveal you to be a pervert.

    Also, please stop using your derogatory words to describe women. Hooker, slut, sleaze — each of these is unacceptable and devalues women, all based on your judgment as to what she is wearing. This removes their humanity and reduces them to objects. It is something *you* are doing to them and not something that they are doing or deserve.

  55. Rob, you are the one who is sexualizing your children. You are viewing them as a sex object to varying degrees based on how they are dressed. You are trying to control their “morality,” which you seem to define only as sexual activity.

  56. rob, you are the one defending being a ‘sleaze’ in society. you should save your outrage and your scolding for the men making lascivious comments to you, not the women those comments are aimed at damaging. you are defending those men and those attitudes with this line of argument, i hope you realize.

  57. Thank you for the brilliant post, Julie. I have long despaired of the way that the Bible talks about rape, and I love your reminder that Jesus taught principles that are fundamentally opposed to rape culture.

  58. As opposed to the train wreck of, say, 50 years ago? I’d love to hear how the world was a better place then, because it most definitely wasn’t.

  59. Im curious to know if there is a stat for rape amongst LDS women missionaries?(around 22,000 active sister missionaries)
    My guess is that it is extremely rare. Why?
    I wonder if it has something to do with modesty and following rules?

  60. I mean, I guess it is time to stop feeding the trolls, but this setup is just too good.

    I’m curious to know if there is a stat for rape committed by LDS male missionaries?
    My guess is that it is extremely rare. Why?
    I wonder if it has something to do with companionships and following rules?

    So, looks like we’ve got ourselves a solution! Men must travel in twos, with men who are less trustworthy supervised by ones considered more trustworthy. They must be in their homes by 9 pm. They must check in with police every night. I mean, not all men are rapists, but really, how else are we supposed to protect women from rape! Some freedoms must be sacrificed, and it just wouldn’t be fair for them to be female freedoms. Thanks Rob!

  61. Train wreck of immorality? In the US teen pregnancy and abortion rates are down. So you might not like what you see but women empowered, speaking their mind and dressing how they want is doing something right.

  62. Julie this was brilliant. I think your section in Matthews Genealogy is well worth bringing up though the specific lesson you draw is a bit of a stretch. Regardless you have me cheering. I’m thankful to be raising my five daughters in a world where they will get the lessons of women like Julie Smith to compliment what they get at home. Thank you for your time and creativity.

  63. Julie Smith: How is it that I can read the scriptures regularly, but am unable to break out from the rut of just seeing the same things, and missing the same things over and over. You never fail to show us (show me!) new truths in deeply familiar stories. I found your post to be instructive and faith-promoting. It also gives me great hope. In this case the hope that our scriptures really do show us the way. Thank you.

    I also want to ask Lori if Jon enjoyed the beach!

  64. Megan – I love your solution! In talking about this with my husband, we are wondering why, as a society, we are not doing a better job of teaching the young people about things like consent, etc. We need to do a better job of teaching young men about how THEY control their own actions and how it is wrong to rape and what rape actually means. We might need to spell it out to them–that it doesn’t matter what someone else is doing, you have no right to rape anyone.

    My favorite quote by Golda Meir has already been shared but I love it:

    “But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”

    Let’s turn our focus to the problem–the rapist–and get off this “modesty” rhetoric.

    True morality comes from within and is about how we treat others–not following pharisaical rules.

  65. Rob,

    Sister missionaries sometimes get raped. More often, however, they are sexually harassed. Whistles, catcalls, inappropriate invitations- it happens to sister missionaries all over the world. As a former sister missionary who served in the US I can say this happens. I have friends who have served in other parts of the world who reported the same. Again, modesty isn’t the problem here- basic respect is the issue and a culture of entitlement.

  66. Modesty rhetoric?
    We must do what we can control. Men and women can both be better. We can dress better, have more respect for each other, etc. The problem we have in society goes back many many decades when we as a society, in the modern technological world, found out just how effective sex in the media sold everything under the sun. It created a new culture where women became highly oversexualized objects. Both men and women took advantage of this new society and created new supposed social norms in its wake. Along with this new culture sprang the great immorality. People put down their bibles to watch the “boob tube”. Womens dresses got shorter and shorter, and we found more and more ways to sell sex, perhaps even change how as a culture, we view sex and how we expect sex to be. In its wake it created a new set of psychological problems experienced by women trying to fit into this sex crazed mold. Then came the 60’s and 70’s with even more extremes and more provacative stances on sex. Some women seeing this power of sex used it as a powerful tool that could control men to a high degree. This new “free love” “make sex not war” era ushered in a new trend of mixing drugs and alcohol with this new anything goes sex driven culture. The result was terrifyingly obvious and from this sprang a new culture that centered on young adults. MTV was born and along with it videos that were designed towards kids showing women as sex objects and men as deserving any and all kinds of sex. This helped to fuel what we now see in society. The feminist movement by this time in the early 80’s was already gathering strength pushing back demanding equal treatment and seeking to destroy what they thought was a male patriarch problem. Now, some 20 years later, we have a new set of problems that all entirely stem from the sex culture we created. STD’s , drug and alcohol addiction, rape and sexual assault all stem from the sex culture we groomed and created over the past half century. Children born into this culture mostly didnt know better and assumed it normal to view sex the way our media and new sex oriented society portrayed it. Whats sad is that I recently went to a church dance and saw that a “normal dance move” involves sex hip thrusts and kids dont realize its ill intent. They believe it a normal thing to have sexual hip thrusts as a perfectly modest action. Thats just one tiny area of bad influence showing where our sex culture has gone.
    Now, this new “rape culture”, a feminist movement seeks to pinpoint the sex problems on all males and patriarchy. One of their beliefs in this is that nothing a women does leads to her being a victim and that it is entirely the mans fault. This literally now means that they believe a women should be able to dress like a sex object, go to a party where alcohol is served, dance and tease provacatively, then when the consumption of alcohol impairs their better judgment and she has sex unknowingly with a male its “rape” and entirely the mans fault. It takes two to tango. Im not suggesting it isnt mans fault, it is, but so too is it often a womens fault for sending all the signals that she wants to have sex.
    These priblems all stem from the decades of grooming new generations into a sex crazed culture where kids now have a different view on sexuality that is unhealthy and dangerous. “Modesty” is slowly but surely becoming a hiss and a byword. Right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right. This entire sex cultural priblem we have created stems almost entirely from the entertainment industry which has used immodesty to sell sex and create a new oversexualized society. So I find it interesting that so many say “stop with the modesty already” when in fact its the very problem you are blind to that will correct our doomed course.

  67. Oh Rob. You are the best troll ever.

    No one in real life can be that blind and stupid.

    Thanks for pointing out all the misconceptions about “modesty” and rape culture. You are a great Pharisee.

  68. So, Im a Pharisee because I caution against the ill effects of immodesty. Wow! That means our entire set of church leaders- the apostles and prophet too are just Pharisees

  69. I appreciate Julie’s comforting approach which rebukes wickedness. I also appreciate your reminder, Mike, that the gospels can be far more terrifying than we’re used to thinking.

  70. I’d encourage you to research sexuality before the technological revolution. I have a feeling you think it was a straight forward, nuclear-family beautiful picture.

    It just wasn’t. Really, it just wasn’t.

    Most of history was 1000x worse than what we have today. And I’ll agree with you that objectification of women is a real problem. But I certainly don’t want to return to the sexual status of my foremothers -more modern or especially ancient.

  71. I responded to Mike above before seeing this reply. Your comment, Julie, reminds me that Jesus (whom I understand more through a Romantic/LDS vision than through studying NT Greek) was emphatic in his revision of traditional power structures, which would be relevant to the master-slave arrangement.

  72. Rob, let’s try a thought experiment.

    Let’s assume that I am a typical young woman who finds young men in suits attractive, and occasionally my mind might wander past the suit. Aren’t those young men obligated to protect me from losing my ‘virtue’ by not wearing well tailored suits? Aren’t they just flaunting their masculinity? Where does their responsibility lie?

    When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to My Brothers in Christ*

  73. How much of this modesty talk is an artifact of our western US culture? Do French or Italian or Spanish or German men think of women at the beach in monokinis as “walking pornography?” When did bare shoulders become immodest among us? What will be next? Collarbones? Elbows?

  74. I don’t wish to distract from Julie’s essential and Christ-centered commentary. However, since this is a rare public moment where LDS are discussing what the Bible has to say about rape, I wanted to hazard gaining insight from others. Jeremiah, in 20:7, seems to be saying that YHWH seduced then raped him. I’m not saying that’s what happened; I’m saying that’s what the verse seems to be saying. Maybe some scholarly commentary will clarify.

    Herbert Marks, in his edition of the KJV, says that the Hebrew word here rendered “deceived” has the connotation of “enticed, seduced” (Exodus 22:16; Hosea 2:14 [KJV “allure”]), and that “art stronger than I” elsewhere has the meaning “force (sexually)” (rape law in Deut 22:25; Amnon raping Tamar in 2 Sam 13:11–14).

    The Jewish scholar Harold Bloom, in his irreverent but moving book Ruin the Sacred Truths, translates Jeremiah 20:7 like this: “Yahweh, you seduced me unlawfully, and I consented to being seduced; you raped me, and you were too strong for my resistance to prevail. All day long I have become an object of derision; everyone mocks me.”

    I did an English BA at BYU and a poem by John Donne comes to mind, “Batter my heart, three-person’d God,” where he basically asks God to rape the evil out of him.

    Frankly, rape is wrong whatever the Bible or any other scriptures have to say about it. But does anyone have any thoughts why scripture, and Donne’s scripture-inspired poem, would equate spirituality with one of the worst crimes we know about? And why the Second Coming, taking its other name from the Latin Bible, would be called rapture? And why at the height of Jesus’ sacrifice the veil of the temple was rent?

    Personally, I have no idea.

  75. Marie,
    The truth is that sister missionaries have a very low rate of becoming the victim of a sex crime. It is because of modesty and adhering to a strict moral conduct in everyday life. It is precisely what they themselves can control despite what yhe world does. Better defense always beates a better offense. What can we learn from the strict moral standards of missionary conduct? That obedience to modesty and morality and rules is the best measure to ensure protection against sexual crimes.

  76. RT,
    Immorality and immodesty in the past hundred years has increased ten fold.

  77. Bert, that’s a rather unusual translation by Bloom. From my limited understanding there’s scholarly disagreement over the meaning of the word translated as “deceived” in the KJV. Some scholars suggest it should be seen as “persuaded” while others pick “enticed” (paralleling its use in 1 Kng 22:21) The fact the word can in other contexts have the more sexual connotation doesn’t mean Jeremiah means it that way. Although who knows, sexual imagery was common in the OT often in ways we’d be uncomfortable with today. (Think the metaphor of the adulterous wife prophets often used)

    The main idea though is of human weakness vs. divine strength and the idea that one can’t really oppose God, regardless of the details of the imagery used. I’m skeptical of Bloom’s reading, even though I’m completely unqualified to say that sort of thing. However as you suggest Bloom often seems intentionally taking the more controversial reading possible to rile people up. I think the meaning here is less sexual than more akin to say Isaiah 8:11 “for the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying….” The idea is that regardless of what the prophet wants, God’s going to make sure he delivers the message. (The story of Jonah obviously applies here)

  78. “RT, Immorality and immodesty in the past hundred years has increased ten fold.”

    This is an assertion I hear a lot but nobody ever backs it up with actual data. How do you measure this, is it just a heuristic shot-in-the-dark or is there some secret trove of data on morality that actually backs up this statement? Whenever I hear people say this, they usually mention some cherry-picked situation or observation that is highly subjective in nature. We all just nod along, as if this assumption were true and everyone knows it somehow. Well, it’s high time that people who say this put up or shut up. So, show us the data. I’m quite happy to supply actual data to the contrary.

  79. Steve, I’m glad you asked. He mentioned to me at the time that he found it a valuable exercise, and not in the joking sense that people use when talking about something they really want to be doing (“twist my arm”). But I asked him to weigh in on the topic, and I’ll copy what he wrote here, to keep it close in the thread.

    From Jon: The beach was fine — beautiful day, not too hot, water a bit chilly but…sorry, off topic. I’m sure no one cares about a beach report.

    But, seriously, I found it…refreshing?…that one of the aforementioned ladies near us (who couldn’t be accused of inappropriate dress since there was hardly any “dress” available) seemed perfectly comfortable with her body image, even with a large belly (sporting a large tattoo for emphasis) and what could be considered a rather revealing half-a-kini.

    For me personally, this wasn’t a “banish lustful thoughts” moment (and certainly not a “how dare you, woman!” moment) — just an “ain’t anatomy interesting” moment, and a thought that people being more comfortable with their shape and size, whatever it be, would be a good thing. I’m not advocating her particular method of demonstrating her comfort, but whatever I think of it is my business or my problem, as it were, not hers.

    I do think modesty of thought and modesty of action are good things. I don’t think coming down on a person for having bare shoulders is necessarily a good thing. (Lori tells me that, growing up a good Mormon teen, she regularly wore tank tops, and it just wasn’t a thing. What happened to shoulders in the intervening years?)

    Anyway, even without going to the beach, I am regularly passed on the street by bare shoulders, lots of leg, yoga pants, et al. In the (dress-code-free) university where I teach, the outfits span the spectrum. But I really think it’s up to me to control what I think about it (including that it’s no big deal), and it’s up to them to decide what they want to wear. That’s all.

  80. RO – It occurs to me that what you mean is immorality and imodesty in women has increased. I’m disbelieving of that. Even more, don’t men’s behaviors count? Cause the historical plenitude of prostitutes had way more to do with the habits of men than women.

  81. Andrew,
    Start by searching the web for pornography statistics. The industry has grown a hundred fold in mere decades.

  82. “Rape culture” has nothing to do with “modesty.” However, it does have to do with power-differential. However, we cannot ignore the sexual aspect of it. If we lived in a truly equal society a woman should be able to go jogging naked and never fear getting raped. True, western society affords women far more equality than many other societies. I saw a YouTube video where a German woman, I think she was a sociologist or psychologist, was filmed as she walked around and rode public transportation totally nude and, while getting some amused glances, no German man grabbed her. If she tried that in a society where men are taught that women who show too much skin deserve to be taught a lesson, or that the woman was a sinner, then the outcome would be entirely different. People need to be taught respect for others even if they disagree with their choices of clothes (or anything else for that matter).

  83. “If we lived in a truly equal society a woman should be able to go jogging naked and never fear getting raped. ”

    If we lived in a truly equal society a woman running around naked would be treated the same as a man running around naked. (i.e. arrested for sexual harassment)

    I’m very sympathetic to discussions of rape culture, but really take a simple experiment and ask what would happen if a man did the equivalent actions. Rape is over course never appropriate. And to the degree these sorts of thought experiments draw attention to how some men justify horrendous acts with any excuse then they are successful. But at the same time I think people need to realize that if men did the same things that are in the thought experiments they’d be fired or arrested.

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