I’m gonna get pedantic here and provide an “essay prompt” so to speak. But this is the internet, not the essay portion of the SAT, so consider this however you like, as a playground at your disposal, food for thought, or just one more piece of flotsam on the side of the information highway. 😉
Modesty: behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency
Impropriety: a failure to observe standards
Indecent: not conforming with generally accepted standards of behavior
Dictionaries. Handy. So modesty has a couple of parts there: if you’re failing to observe standards, that’s immodest. Showing up to work without your uniform. Wearing that miniskirt after your dad told you not to. That’s immodest on grounds of impropriety.
“Indecent” is where you get into the weeds. Generally accepted standards of behavior is pretty broad. Let’s narrow it down a little. How about generally accepted standards of sexual signaling behavior, particularly unmarried women’s?
We’re talking peacock tails now, metaphorically speaking. Well, how about another set of definitions?
Attractive: pleasing or appealing to the senses; sexually alluring.
Alluring: powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating; seductive
Seduce: entice into sexual activity
Ah hah. Pleasing or appealing to the senses is one of those things that many people consider a good thing (as long as you don’t fall into hedonism), but once you get into sexually alluring then you’re gonna start tripping a lot of those warning passages from Proverbs about predatory women of loose morals leading their victims to destruction.
There’s a place for degrees of sexuality in social signaling, of course: attracting a mate, getting married, having kids. All of that involves the biological appetites, and if you’re not sexually attractive, you’re going to have a hard time finding a mate who’ll want you. But sex is a powerful force, and unlike peacocks, humanity has to have moral rules guiding and channeling that force into its proper, productive ends and away from misuse.
So how much sexual signaling is too much? Everyone certainly uses the word immodest to describe mating-dance tactics that cross socially-accepted and socially-enforced standards of behavior. (The “good girl vs. slut” line, for example.) Now we’re getting into circles: that’s going back to “generally accepted” again. Different cultures have very widely varying standards on what type of clothing an unmarried woman should wear, especially if you throw in the past as well.
What would you say to someone – an equal from a different culture – who disagrees with you, to convince them your standard is the better one? I’m personally curious as to what sort of arguments are out there. Got an opinion? A link? If it pleases you to do so, drop it here. 🙂