Modesty Under Fire

Carol Platt Liebau illustrates the depth of this moral degeneracy:

Sexual activity has infected middle school with a vengeance.8 . . . Increasingly, girls define sexual activity as part of what it means to be a typical teen.9 Previously unacceptable sexual behavior, like same-sex relationships, is increasingly common, and at younger ages.10

Liebau is correct. According to researchers at San Diego State University, a review of 530 studies over a period of five decades and involving 250,000 young people between the ages of twelve and twenty-seven revealed that only 12 percent of women approved of premarital sex in 1943. By 1979, it was 73 percent.11

The Gallup organization found similar trends. In 2006, 79 percent of young adults said premarital sex was morally acceptable, and 52 percent considered living together no problemo.12 The sexual revolution that began with a flourish in the late 1960s has survived into the twenty-first century and now encompasses the majority of young Americans.

Another study of Americans corroborated these dramatic findings. Over one thousand adults were asked if they believed in the notion of sin, defined as "something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective." Eighty-seven percent acknowledged that they did. The responders were then asked to compare thirty behaviors traditionally thought to be sinful. Adultery headed the list with 81 percent; followed by racism, 74 percent; drug abuse, 65 percent; abortion, 56 per- cent; homosexual sex, 52 percent; gossip, 47 percent; swearing, 46 percent; and alas, premarital sex, 45 percent. For more than half of American adults of all ages, sex outside of marriage is considered to be "no big deal."13

The Family Research Council, which reported these findings, writes, "It's encouraging to know that in this day of moral relativism that the majority of Americans still recognize and believe that there is such a thing as sin, even if there are devils in the details."14

Previous generations would not have believed this disintegration of traditional morality occurring in our day. Columnist Florence King summarizes it starkly:

We went from a nation that believed a virtuous woman's price is far above rubies [Proverbs 31] to one that believes a virtuous woman is as sounding brass [1 Corinthians 13]. Meanwhile, the New Woman went from prize to prey. Without the social conventions of modesty, her prerogative to say no was overridden by men's prerogative to expect sex.15

It was this dramatic change in cultural attitudes that motivated Wendy Shalit and Carol Platt Liebau to write about their implications for the welfare of girls. We don't know whether they compared notes before writing, but they obviously came to the same conclusions.

Liebau writes:

In an earlier era, social success was defined by how much a particular girl could inspire a boy to pursue, woo, and do for her. Now girls compete for boys' attention on the basis of how much they, the girls, are willing to do for the boys, sexually and otherwise. What this dynamic means, as girls themselves have pointed out, is that the boys call the shots more than ever. . . .

By offering their bodies so quickly and so easily, girls have essentially surrendered their most effective means for securing the kind of male companionship that they most desire.16

Shalit emphasizes that it is foolish to believe a woman can easily detach herself emotionally from the men with whom she sleeps. To the contrary, girls in the hookup culture typically feel rejected, used, and abused when they offer their most intimate gifts and are then cast aside. When that happens, guys get what they want and girls just get angry and depressed. We will see the profound consequences of the hookup lifestyle in the next chapter.

Shalit quotes eighteenth-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau warning women not to try to be like men. He wrote, "The more women want to resemble [men], the less women will govern them, and then men will truly be the masters."17 That is exactly what happens to women who engage in casual sex.

Sleazy behavior also affects men, both emotionally and spiritually, but in a different way. This is how the apostle Paul described it: "Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, 'The two will become one flesh'" (1 Corinthians 6:16). That is the way we are designed. An old proverb describes how ancient people viewed virginity. It goes like this: "Chastity is like an icicle; if it once melts, that's the last of it." In other words, virginity can easily be destroyed, but it can never be restored.

References to chastity, and especially nudity, can be found in classical literature from earliest recorded history. The book of Genesis indicates, for example, that before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they were "both naked, and they felt no shame" (Genesis 2:25). After eating the forbidden fruit, however, the biblical text says that "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves" (Genesis 3:7).

Later, Adam tried to hide from God because he was ashamed of his nakedness. The Creator asked him a telling question: "Who told you that you were naked?" (Genesis 3:11). From that time to this, modesty about the body has been deeply ingrained in human nature, especially among women. It can be overridden and subverted, but at a heavy price.

As we have seen, the popular culture refers to public nudity as "becoming comfortable with your body." Huge numbers of girls have accepted that interpretation and brazenly disrobed for Playboy, for movie producers, for soft-core and hard-core pornographers, and for anyone else who offers to pay them. It is another form of prostitution, of course. Some teenage girls seeking attention receive no compensation in return. In a transmission called "sexting," they send nude or sexually explicit photographs through their cell phones or the Internet to boyfriends, who download the images. The guys can then distribute the pictures widely for decades to come. More than 20 percent of teens have engaged in this activity.18 Whatever happened to the voice of conscience that told generations of young women that disrobing before strangers was wrong and cheap? It has been perverted by a popular culture that instead condemns modesty and morality, urging girls to get comfortable with nudity.

8.Liebau, Prude, 17.

9.Ibid., 31.

10.Ibid.; 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, Advance Data No. 362 (September 15, 2005).

11.B. E. Wells and J. M. Twenge, "Changes in Sexual Behavior and Attitudes, 1943–1999: A Cross-

Temporal Meta-Analysis," Review of General Psychology 9 (2005): 249–261.

12.Lydia Saad, "Americans Have Complex Relationship with Marriage: Many Supportive of Unwed

Families, but Most Still Seek Marriage," Gallup Poll News Service (May 30, 2006).

13."Most Americans Believe in Sin, but Differ Widely on Just What It Is," Ellison Research (March 11, 2008); see

Bringing Up Girls

14.Family Research Council, Washington Update (March 2008).

15.Florence King, "In All, Modesty," National Review (January 25, 1999).

16. Liebau, Prude, 186, 88.

17.Christopher Kelly, ed., Rousseau on Women, Love, and Family (Sudbury, MA: Dartmouth Publishing, 2009), xxx.

18."Sex and Tech: Results from a Survey of Teens and Young Adults," National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (December 2008).

Book: Bringing Up Girls

By Dr. James Dobson

Group Created with Sketch.