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On “Adultescence” and the Modesty Survey

By Mary Pride
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #96, 2010.

A detailed report and analysis of the Modesty Survey

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Mary Pride


A New York Times story of August 18 asks, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” As the story points out, “Sociologists traditionally define the ‘transition to adulthood’ as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child.” The story went on to point out that in 1960, “77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones.”

Forty years later, the numbers of young men, in particular, who had reached these thresholds was HALF what it was in 1960.

And that was ten years ago.

Whether this new period of Peter Pan-ism is labeled “emerging adulthood,” “extended adolescence,” the “Odyssey Years” (referring to Odysseus’s decade of wandering) . . . or what Brett and Alex Harris call it, “adultescence” . . . the most obvious symptom to many of us parents is young men, even homeschooled young men, who are afraid or unready to get married.

The sad result is a crop of well-prepared homeschooled young ladies, perfectly capable of raising children and running a household, and anxious to do so, with no husbands on the horizon.

PHS fully supports the Rebelution’s attempt to help young adults become actual adults.

We also realize that, as things stand, young women are incredibly vulnerable to the opinions of young men.

Which brings us to the Modesty Survey. This popular feature of the Rebelution site, encourages young men to express their opinions of female dress and behavior.

The impetus behind the Modesty Survey is the belief that women’s dress can cause Christian men to fall into ungodly thoughts. If I had the space, I would have plenty to say about this. For now, consider just this:

1. The only female features that the Bible says cause potential male downfall are “eyes” (Prov 6:25): literally “eyelids,” as in the KJV. 2. The “strange woman” (KJV) or “adulteress” (NIV), who is by no means a Christian sister, leads a young man astray by her smooth speech (Prov. 5:3), not by her outfit. Those arguing for the “Burqa Lite” standard of Christian dress also fail to explain how young men who faint at the sight of a Christian ankle are supposed to control themselves when out in the world.

Doctors see naked women. Missionaries to tropical, tribal areas see half-naked women. But we don’t expect them to go insane with lust.

Proverbs 7:6–27 describes a woman leading a man astray. She is loud, defiant, dressed like a prostitute, and deliberately talks him into committing adultery. Even so, the passage is all about how he should have known better.

I’m all for modest dress, but not because Christian men are going to fall into temptation left and right if various arbitrary skirt lengths, etc., are not met. In the New Testament, “modest” dress refers to “spending a modest amount on clothing,” not to the amount of cloth and where it is draped. “Modest” dress is contrasted with ostentatiously expensive clothing and hairstyles—and the passage is talking about how to dress for church (I Tim. 2:8–10)!

This preoccupation on men’s part with women’s modesty is misguided. Once again, the older women should be teaching the younger what is appropriate, as per Titus 2:3–5. Neither older nor younger men are responsible or authorized to instruct the younger women in this area.

This is actually one more area where young men should grow up and stop blaming women for their own inappropriate thoughts. Instead of a Modesty Survey (where a majority of respondents blame girls as “stumblingblocks” for the way they walk, run, sit, stretch, bend, and dress, though for some reason mascara, glitter lotion, and painted nails are no problem), how about learning to view girls as people? Seriously.

Portions of this sidebar are excerpted from The Way Home, 25th Anniversary Edition. ©2010 Home Life, Inc.


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