José Morcillo Valenciano

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

There has been a lot of talking, debating, and hand-wringing among Christian bloggers lately about modesty; particularly yoga pants, making men uncomfortable by being attractive, and in general, ways in which to combat everyone’s favorite “evil”: lust.

Well, I’d like to hop on the modesty bandwagon and discuss something that I have personally struggled with for many, many years. [deep breath]

Suits.

Specifically, men in suits.

Photo credit: Michal Kulesza

Yes, folks: I struggle with lusting after men in suits.

Credit: Tumblr

I want to be brutally honest about this struggle. As young-ish, heterosexual woman who is trying to keep her thoughts pure and her eyes on Jesus, I have to say…every day, EVERY DAY, is a battle.

Photo credit: Public Domain

Every time I pass a man in a well-tailored suit,  I try to keep my eyes averted to avoid the evil, lustful thoughts that will surely creep into my head. Sometimes I’m successful. Other times…I’m in an office building and I find my senses assaulted by a sea of men in strutting around in well-tailored suits, smelling of cologne and after-shave and……. [gazes out the window]

Don’t these men have any self respect? Do they even understand how their clothing affects me? I wonder what is going through men’s heads when they decide to dress this way. All I know is that when a man wears a nice suit with pants that are juuuust tight enough, I will notice.

Photo credit: Micah Gianneli

Therefore I am issuing a plea to my brothers in Christ for an understanding of where I’m coming from. When you choose to exist in public looking well-groomed and sharp, you are basically extending an invitation for me to lust after you.

Listen, as a woman I’m an emotional creature. I want to feel protected and safe, and nothing screams “I am a MAN and I will protect you” like a suit and tie. I can’t help it, that’s just how I’m wired.**  It’s science. LOOK IT UP.

Now I know what you might be saying: “Well, isn’t it YOUR responsibility to control your thoughts around men?”

Of COURSE. We are all called to rid our thoughts of lust. But again, as my brothers in Christ, is it asking too much of you to simply be more attentive to what you wear?

If the purpose of our clothes is to glorify God, how are you doing so by wearing something that obviously causes others to sin in their minds? Yes, it is everyone’s job to control their own eyes, but you ALSO have a responsibility to not give them reason to sin.

Credit: Tumblr

Perhaps, instead of chastising me for not having enough self control, you could take a good hard look at what’s in your closet and then ask yourself: “Is my wardrobe advertising something that is not for sale?”

I mean…

Photo credit: Public Domain

….what were we talking about?

Right. MODESTY!

Not only must you be mindful of your wardrobe, but you must also understand that your body is a commodity. Anytime you appear in public, it is assumed that any body part you show is something that is available to everyone. Look at your hands. Are they strong? What about your arms? Muscular? Well, are they available for me to enjoy? No? THEN WHY ARE YOU SHOWING THEM? What kind of message do you think you’re sending?

What’s that? You were under the impression that you only dress for yourself (or for what is required by your place of employment)? OF COURSE NOT!

If you truly cared about my desire to live holy, you would take into consideration how your clothing (and how sexy you look in it) may be a potential stumbling block for me. Have you considered maybe wearing a suit that is too large for you? Perhaps that hideous tie in your (or your dad’s) closet from the 70s? Do you have any plaid?

Photo credit: Public Domain

Never mind.

But don’t worry! You can assist me in my journey towards a pure and lust-free mind by not only getting rid of all your well-tailored suits, but also by avoiding the following actions:

1. Leaning while holding your suit jacket.

Photo credit: Public Domain

2. Flaunting your intelligence by saying smart things (like pointing out ridiculous arguments against teachers I SEE YOU MATT DAMON).

3. Being a talented musician.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk (Photopin.com)

4. Wearing white button-down shirts.

5. Talking passionately about social justice causes (like….say…fracking for example).

6. Reading books.

Photo credit: Hot Guys Reading Books

Hey GREGORY. Put that away.

Photo credit: Flickr-Banana Leaf

7. Looking pensive and/or smoldering.

8. Wearing glasses.

9. Dancing.

Credit: http://ladamania.tumblr.com/

10. Standing around looking pensive.

11. Sitting in chairs.

12. Sitting while looking pensive.

Now this is by no means an exhaustive list. Granted, there may be clothing and/or behaviors not listed here that others find desirable. It is YOUR responsibility to find out what they are and eliminate them from your life. By avoiding clothing, actions, behavior, personality traits, conversations, or anything else that has even the SLIGHTEST possibility of causing others to lust after you, you are demonstrating that you care enough about others to assist them on their path to righteousness.

But, what if my job requires me to wear a suit?

WELL, CLEARLY YOU NEED TO FIND ANOTHER JOB.

Look, don’t think of this as a laundry list of things to avoid in order to appear modest-

But…you JUST made a list of things-

LET ME FINISH.

This isn’t just about a list of modesty dos and don’ts; this is about making drastic significant minute life changes in order to prevent even the REMOTE possibility of any thought of a lustful or sexual nature entering the minds of those you interact with.

Remember:  upholding an impossible standard that will never remain static and is subject to the cultural, religious, or societal context within which it resides must ALWAYS trump your comfort, convenience, and ability to exist in a public space in whatever manner you choose.

*This is satire. Put your pitchforks down.

**Not really. I believe this is an archaic gender norm many people internalize.

About the author:

Laura Polk is an African-American woman who currently works as an organizer. In her spare time, she facilitates conversations around sexuality, purity/modesty culture, gender, and the church on Twitter @noshamemov and on tumblr: noshamemovement.com.

* This post was originally published at thesaltcollective.org by author Laura Polk and has been republished here with permission. *

Cover photo credit: José Morcillo Valenciano (Photopin.com)

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