Recently, modesty proponents have been accused of promoting "rape culture" by both faith-based and mainstream bloggers and columnists. The thinking, led by secular third wave feminists, asserts that discussing modesty "sexualizes women" which in turn contributes to rape crimes.
During the same time period over 100 million readers made E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey the fastest-selling paperback of all time. Barna research reports no statistical difference in the percentage of Christian women versus the general public reading the series, which glamorizes sexual violence against women. The Christian media has been largely silent on this issue.
As a leader in both the modesty movement and the fight against women being victimized by pornography and erotica, I find the Christian response to reveal a tragic double standard.
Does teaching modesty promote "rape culture"? A better question to begin with is this: does "rape culture" even exist?
Last month, a TIME Magazine article declared that it was "Time To End Rape Culture Hysteria." Writer Caroline Kitchens championed the report of the nation's leading anti-sexual violence organization, RAINN, which rebuked the overemphasis on the concept of "rape culture" as a means of preventing rape, citing that 90% of rapes on college campuses are committed by 3% of the male population. RAINN argues that rape is the product of individuals who have decided to disregard the overwhelming cultural messages that rape is wrong.
The fact is rape crime is on the decline. The National Crime Victimization Survey indicates that rape occurrence in the 1980's was 2.4 per 1000 people. Now it is .4 per 1000. Even RAINN reports that sexual assault has fallen by more than 50% in recent years.
The RAINN report argues that the trend towards focusing on cultural factors "has the paradoxical effect of making it harder to stop sexual violence, since it removes the focus from the individual at fault, and seemingly mitigates personal responsibility for his or her own actions."
"Twenty-first century America does not have a rape culture; what we have is an out-of-control lobby leading the public and our educational and political leaders down the wrong path. Rape culture is doing little to help victims, but its power to poison the minds of young women and lead to hostile environments for innocent males is immense," wrote Kitchens.
The "rape culture" idea is a feminist dogma implying that ultimately all women are victimized by men. This monolithic generalization paralyzes us from focusing together on how we can continue the good work of reducing the number of victims.
The reduction would begin by cancelling out the fallacious "victim" label placed on those who've been encouraged to dress modestly. Case in point is the current verbal riot occurring over an Evanston, Illinois public school dress code, which showcases well how harmful the "rape culture" vultures can be. Under allegations that the school recently banned leggings and yoga pants, feminists accused the district of "slut shaming" girls.
While a constructive conversation may have been needed regarding the enforcement of rules, the use of inflammatory language and accusations that the school changed policies proves the unethical extent to which some will go to push the "rape culture" agenda. In fact, the school didn't change its dress code and the policy doesn't call out only girls but uses gender-neutral language in its dress code to call all students to dress in a manner that creates an environment of "respect for learning."
What's wrong with that?
And there's nothing wrong with teaching Christian girls and women that God wants nothing they wear to distract from the good works they do and the great minds God's given to them. In fact, from a biblical perspective it's very right.
Most telling in the current public dialogue is that those defending the term "rape culture" are ideologists with a lot of time on their hands to blacken the reputation of others with inflammatory accusations. Those suggesting we make it obsolete are the activists who are actually doing something to help victims and stop sexual abuse.
This same sad dichotomy is seen in the Christian dialogue with bloggers fueling the self-proclaimed "evangelistic" rhetoric of third wave feminists under the guise of Christian socialism, while those on the front lines as activists-teaching girls and women to respect themselves by training them in the biblical concepts of modesty and purity, and binding the wounds of those victimized by porn and erotica-take the blows of their hollow arguments.
It is Scripture that should be informing the Christian conversation on sexuality, modesty, purity, and sex crimes; not the leading voices of third wave feminism. While it has to be noted that some legalistic sects of Christianity do hyper-sexualize women with their approach to sexuality, a true bible-based approach leads us to thoughtful and balanced instruction to women regarding self-respect.
Taking our cues from the Bible would also lead us to be vocally intolerant of women's fiction that glamorizes bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism (BDSM), even as the world celebrates it as "sexy." There is research to suggest that pornography increases the risk of rape and domestic violence. Erotica is just one form of pornography and the most en vogue erotica today features abusive sex.
What do I mean by abuse? Dominance is the role of a sadist who is taking authority over the "submissive" in various ways including domestic servitude, verbal humiliation, sexual slavery, fetishes (such as shoe/boot worship), erotic humiliation, whipping, making the submissive a human toilet, or forcing the submissive to have sex with another partner while watching.
Not only are our Christian women reading about violent sex, but with sales of soft bondage rope up and visits to the bondage section of a leading online sex toy site up 24%, whips, chains and canes are not only for fantasy, but real life users. Huffington Post linked the current wave of erotica to a 50% boost in members to one prominent extramarital affair dating website. The site claimed 62% of members wanted to try BDSM but feared their spouse would be shocked if they suggested it.
The current normalization of erotica is doing to women what the advent of internet porn did to men-increasing the temptation to explore very dark and harmful sexual sin, while the Church acts like it's not happening. As my co-author psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery and I point out in our recent release Pulling Back the Shades, it is happening to Christian women near you.
Recently, a Dominant named Robert stopped by my online blog to proudly defend his relationship with his wife who he calls the "s" (or submissive). Their relationship is reflective of research that indicates that 89% of women involved in the bondage, dominance, masochism, and sadism are more likely to act as the submissive than the dominant.Here's what Robert told me:
Yes, at times my wife will have bruises, rope burns etc,…. And there is ALWAYS aftercare… I love and respect my wife, and will always give her what she wants and needs. Am I taking to her bare backside with a cane? Yes.
There's no such thing as sexy abuse. It's just abuse.
Where is the outcry from bloggers and columnists about this atrocity? What should proponents of so-called "rape culture" be outraged about-the fact that girls are being encouraged to wear leggings tastefully or the fact that sadism is being glorified?
The Christian media should lead the charge in righting this grave double standard. That is, unless, we are going to continue to take our cues from the feminist culture, which applies "tolerance" to any sexual preference unless it lines up with God's plan for sexuality.