Modesty: Whose Fault Is It?

woman vs manI’ve heard it plenty of times: this argument about whose fault it is when a woman dresses provocatively and a man reacts to it. Is it her fault he reacted that way? Or is it his fault and she’s not to be blamed? I’ve heard people bash comments about rape being the woman’s fault because she dressed that way. I’ve seen women tell themselves they’re not guilty when a man uses them, even though they were dressed inappropriately.

Take this scenario for example.

A woman wearing a skimpy outfit walks down the street. A man across the street sees her and thinks of her as an object.
Who’s fault is it?

One side  (A) says: it’s the woman’s fault! She dressed like that in front of him, tempted him. How else was he supposed to react?

While the other side (B) argues: the woman had nothing to do with it! It wasn’t her fault. Stopping blaming her for something like that.

But I think both sides have it wrong.

Side A does a disservice to the man, actually. In their reasoning, he is equated to a beast who can not control his impulses. This is simply false.

Side B refuses to acknowledge the connection between what the woman wore and how the man reacted. Again, there seems to be some false thinking.

Well, here’s what I think: both the man and the woman are at fault.

I was thinking about this and modesty last night and brought in some ideas from the theological morality class I’m taking. Now, each individual is responsible for their own actions right? So clearly the man is responsible for his actions, thoughts, whatever they may be. He is not a beast. The thoughts may come easy but that is because the man has a vice. It is not because he has absolutely no control over himself but because it is especially difficult for him to control himself in this area as he is enslaved to this vice he has developed.

But that doesn’t mean the woman’s off the hook. Ladies, what’s one of the chief reasons, besides respecting ourselves and our own dignity as human beings, that we are often given for why we should be modest? That’s right. Because we don’t want to be a source of temptation for men. We don’t want them to be overcome by lust just because of what we’re wearing. But that’s what women who dress that way are doing. We must acknowledge that the way we dress can make it harder or easier for a man to avoid sin. We must also acknowledge that tempting someone is wrong. Whether or not we are then culpable for the man’s sin I’ll leave to the theologians, or at least someone with a couple more Theology classes under their belt.

The way I see it there are two sins to be guilty for and no one is blameless in this situation: the woman is (at least) guilty of dressing inappropriately, the man of his thoughts/actions. The two are not necessarily dependent. A woman might dress that way and cause no one to fall (though odds are she’d tempt a few), or she might dress ultra-conservatively and still there’d be a man ogling her. However these aren’t unrelated. I think we can all agree that odds are the way she’s dressing is not completely separate from the way he’s thinking.

So my answer to the argument of who’s at fault for the sin? Depends on which sin we’re talking about. But really, in this scenario, they’re both at fault for something.


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