Modesty, Lust, And Emotional Rape.

The slow thud of pounding bass through my bedroom walls shook me half-awake. I kept my face in my pillow and wondered why it was necessary for music this loud to be played in our family’s home at 7am on Saturday mornings. I pulled my comforter back over my head, and drifted off to sleep for all of two minutes before the fire alarm went off.

Breakfast was ready. And that fire alarm dug it’s nails into my soul.

15 years old. I stumbled into the kitchen, rubbing my eyes and brushing hair out of my face.

“Back upstairs, Lauren.” My mom stood at the stove, waving her spatula at me.

“What?”

“UPSTAIRS. You know you can’t wear that around your brothers.”

I shook myself fully awake and glanced down to figure out what she was talking about. Sweatpants and a cami. I guess you could tell my breasts were developing. A little late, I might add.

“Mom, I just woke up.”

“You can’t wear things like that around your dad and your brothers. It isn’t appropriate. You’re distracting them. Shame on you.”

A sickness crept up in my stomach and I felt it in my skin. I pushed memories out of my mind.

Memories like the week after I turned 13, and I shyly put my balled up, polka dotted underwear in my mother’s hand because I was too embarrassed to speak the words, “I started my period.” She wanted to show Dad, and I was paralyzed. I stood in an aching stillness, cold feet on the kitchen tile floor, while my little girl mind shifted and groaned and made way for a developing normal that felt like being forced to stand naked in front of a man. Memories like my dad reading my diary against my will. Memories like finding naked women on the computer. Memories like hiding. Pretending. Keeping quiet. Shaking. Hush all these things.

Three years later and the boy I loved broke up with me. I thought it was for a girl that would do more with him.

Six months after that, I kissed a boy. I told him he was my second kiss, thinking that it would be something special to him – and I never saw him again. I found out a week later he’d kissed me on dare from his friends. They had seen my picture, I was super hot, and they didn’t think he could “get me.”

Harassed on the street by a man who wanted me to model nude for him. “I had to.” I was too beautiful, I owed it to him.

Being banned from an organization because I wore a shirt too clingy and was making the boys stumble.

A man I viewed as a father figure coming on to me, shattering one of the only safe places I had left.

A co-worker trying to tape me when I didn’t know it.

A first date who got violent when I refused to sleep with him after he bought me dinner.

A lifetime of awkward visits to the pool in one piece swimsuits and shorts so that I wouldn’t be responsible for causing men to sin when they looked at me.

A close friend’s father asking me, begging me, pressuring me, cornering me to watch a movie with him in bed.

Debilitating self-consciousness for years because I was constantly made fun of for how “homeschooler” I dressed.

Men who have put their hands in places I wasn’t strong enough to protect.

Four times my life has ended, and I’ve created a new one out of nothing on the opposite side of the country. And in every life, they find me. These men who take and do not give. These women who shame me into believing it is my fault. The church’s endless list of standards that declares my body is at the core of what is wrong with society. These people who wrap their own sins in guilt and shame and lunge them at my heart, commanding me to carry their weight for them. Hiding. Pretending. Keeping quiet. Hush these things.

All my stories? The ones I brace my spirit to share, and the ones I don’t have enough courage yet to tell? My stories are no different than the average woman. Every woman I know has experienced these things. Every girl I’ve spoken to is wearing thin from the men in her life who have taken and not given. And all these women march forward in brokenness with a church who blames our injured hearts on our own precious bodies. To inflict pain and then blame the injured for the violence does permanent damage to a heart.

For 24 years my suffocating modesty doctrine has kept me from wearing outfits that I love, has dictated the way I dress, and has now brought me to the morning where I stand in front of my closet as a married woman, realizing that I have nothing sexy to wear for night out with my husband.

24 years of hiding so that I won’t be blamed for men fantasizing about me has brought me to my husband wrapping his arms around me, telling me how beautiful and sexy he thinks I am, and that he hates seeing me hide in my clothes because I’m too afraid to wear what makes me feel beautiful.

AND YET.

For the last month, I’ve been suffering a daily barrage of comments and emails criticizing the way I dress. Questioning my character and my salvation. Challenging that I can’t have the influence on women that I want to have when I’m wearing an oversized v-neck shirt on a date with my new husband. Rebuking me for causing men to stumble. Telling me that all the good I am doing is being canceled out by the fact that I have a great pair of legs. That I’m selling myself short by being attractive.

Last night, I received this comment on my blog: “Maybe when you talk about pornography, you could refrain from wearing such low-cut shirts.”

The sickness crept back again. I crumbled. And I sat on my bedroom floor in the dark and cried. The ache was back.

The emptiness in my chest. The pain of having it all taken. The shame of being blamed. The desperate desire for someone to stand up and shout, “IT’S NOT HER FAULT.”

And He did. You know, He whispered, “It’s not your fault.” He whispered, “I made you for this. I made you for Me. I made you for him.” He told me I was beautiful. He told me I have nothing to hide. He told me He knows. That He will never take from me. That he knows every man that tried to take. He told me that it was never my fault.

And then my husband came and wrapped his arms around me and whispered all. the. same. things. in my ear.

My Jesus has proclaimed that he has given me life so that I can have life to the full.

My God says He looks at my heart and that He loves me sacrificially, and Paul begs of us to be perfect in this way that our Father is PERFECT. (Matthew 5:48, I Samuel 16:7, John 15:13, & Matthew 23:13-28)

Have you missed this? Have you missed what the God of the Universe has deemed as PERFECT?

Perfect is sacrificial love, not shifting blame for a selfishness that ravages through the souls of men, urging them to take take take.

Perfect is knowing we are all sons and daughters, made in the image of God, redeemed and restored and spotless before Him.

Perfect is looking at one another’s hearts, and knowing that the outward appearance shows NOTHING of their character, their value, their salvation.

Perfect is living in the freedom that Christ died for. Not under a higher, more impossible list of standards that is so impossibly human it could not have come from our Lover. (Isaiah 28:10)

Dear men: If you believe my neckline is causing to stumble, you have bought into the lie that women are the problem, NOT YOUR LUST.

Dear women: If you believe you are responsible for your fellow man’s sins, you have bought into the lie that YOU are the problem, NOT SIN.

Dear men and women: Our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

When you believe that your struggle is against a man or woman’s body instead of against the spirit of death, you have lost and will continue to lose.

I rebuke the spirit of lust, of rape, of prostitution, of religion, of addiction, and of immorality that continues to try to shackle the body my Maker designed and gave to me with it’s guilt.

I declare freedom, life, joy, purity, beauty and love over my body and my spirit.

Oh, by the way. If you are still following me by this summer, you will most likely see a photo of me at the beach in a bikini at some point.

And I will not be apologizing for it.

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Comments have been disabled for this post out of protection for my heart. <3

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  1. Stephanie says:

    Amen. Your story is my story. I think you’re beautiful! And I’ll be wearing a bikini this summer, too!! =)

  2. Candace-Lee says:

    It really saddened my heart when I saw those unnecessary posts on your previous video. You are an incredible woman Lauren! I absolutely love your ministry!!! Thank you so much for your words and stories, they are an inspiration to all women. You are beautiful inside and out because you shine Jesus’ love and truth! Thank God for women like you 🙂

  3. Christie Halaszyn says:

    It truly is amazing how many of us share that same story. Emotional rape is the perfect terminology. Our emotional energy is taken without consent and used up until we are empty, shriveled up in the corner of our bedroom or closet. I feel proud of you as a woman who has experienced some of the same things and is now working them out, for the first time, as a newlywed. Jesus has to be our source of healing and our example of perfect love. The world fails us every single time, but Jesus never, ever will, just as he showed you when he brought your husband to wrap his physical arms around you in a way that Jesus can’t. I praise God for women like you who are brave enough to speak out, stand up and be acknowledged as a strong survivor of the pains of this world, and I look forward to he ways God uses me to do the same.

  4. Am quite a new follower and find your blog a complete inspiration…filled with honesty, love and passion…I could read it all day!
    Thank you
    x

  5. Melissa says:

    I have spent the last hour or so reading through so many of your post. It all started with the love letter to your body. Many have challenged me, brought me to tears, and have been echos of my own thoughts, feelings, and pain. As I read this one (Modesty, Lust, and Emotional rape), I was sadden by the attack on what seems, to me, a beautiful ministry (if to no one else {which I doubt} but me). I am in awe of the way God speaks to you and feel as though I will continue to be in awe and moved towards Him, like I have been today.

    Here are my thoughts, that I feel I need to share:
    I am modest by all accounts. However, there seems to be times that no matter how I try I fail in this department. How is it that a V-neck from target can cause an all out war over the amount of cleavage I show (to some extend my cleavage is unavoidable unless I decide to wear a turtle neck year round).

    This part of your blog drew my attention the most. I am just sharing my journey here. No disagreeing with yours, by NO means do I disagree with what you have said above, but I felt like this was safe place to voice my struggle with the same issue. So please take it as that:
    “Dear men: If you believe my neckline is causing to stumble, you have bought into the lie that women are the problem, NOT YOUR LUST.
    Dear women: If you believe you are responsible for your fellow man’s sins, you have bought into the lie that YOU are the problem, NOT SIN.
    Dear men and women: Our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

    This is all so true, I hear it more as their lust is not my problem (my battle or my place to judge). I agree that what I would call “the battle” is not against one another male/female, but the forces of evil. It is important to recognize the true enemy.

    Here is my struggle. I wear what I want to wear, I wear what makes me feel beautiful, fun, and sexy. Now the next part is where it gets sticky for me. I do believe, however, that is my job as a loving sister in Christ to help protect the purity of my brothers. Just as it is their job to help protect the purity of their sisters. My modesty and my concern for what is appropriate to wear at church or out and about with friends and in life in general comes from a place of loving my male friends and brothers in Christ. Not from shame because I may make them lust, but knowing that my body and how I choose to show it doesn’t necessarily help them succeed in fighting that demon. This is not a condemnation of cleavage, bikinis, short shorts, etc (because I am guilty of them all, well not the bikini but thats a personal comfort level). It is just food for thought and battle that I feel I fight daily and am not always on the “right” side of the battle.

    The reality is as “modest” as someone might be we have no control over what causes anybody to lust.

    • Jonah Weylan says:

      As a guy, the reaction we have when we see something we find sexual is not a choice. What we do with it is.

      If I see a girl in a bikini, it is not a choice that I make to find that sexual. We do not simply choose to turn off and on the response to seeing these things.

      The chemical that causes porn addiction, dopamine, can be released in our brains, involuntarily, through even eye contact with an attractive woman.

      So what does this mean? It certanly does not mean that women should wear veils, or dress “homeschoolish”, but it at least means that it is an effort on both sides.

      As a man, there is a difference between seeing a part of a woman’s body in tight or revealing clothing and intentionally looking at that part. Seeing it the second time is something we can certainly help. Also, sexual harassment is, and I’m sure most people would agree, absolutely wrong.

      It can be hard, though, if girls don’t make at least an effort to help a brotha out. The issue with revealing clothing isn’t that it’s seen to be an invitation to sexual harrassment. It’s that it makes things hard for those of us who are trying to do this right, who are trying to avoid those thoughts in the first place.

  6. I felt like I was just reading my own journal, thank you for your perspective. Thank you for showing me how to release the guilt as it’s not mine to bare. I cannot say what a blessing all of these posts I’m clicking through have been, it’s amazing how God shows his truth.

  7. Merrie says:

    Thank you, Lauren. Thank you for having the guts to stand up and be beautiful the way you were created to be when the world {church} tells you otherwise. I’ve expirenced just a smidgen of the censure and judgement you talk about, and just wish I were half as brave as you are.

  8. Evan says:

    You have my respect. I am a man, fyi. I have seen and heard many stories like yours, from almost every woman I know and love. When I see and hear them, I am broken, saddened, angered. There’s really nothing to say…

    But you have my respect. Your husband has my respect.

    I respect the fact that you write such honest and raw stories. I respect the fact that there is an ad for money off on a bra on the left sidebar of this blog, because I respect men and women who want to wisely celebrate the gift of marital sex. It rocks. I respect that you write this stuff to the massive void of cyberspace even when the meteors still collide and hurt and rock your world. I respect that you have not stopped pursuing this Jesus who draws lines in the dust between frat-boy-gang-rape-Pharisees and women caught in adultery (what’d they do with the man who was doing it with her?!); who holds off his OWN law so that he can pour out incredible grace on everyone. That is incredible love.

    It is amazing to me how few people understand that speaking truth poorly is as bad as speaking lies well. Thoughtless, careless, selfish, lazy rhetoric can be more harmful and sinful than not thinking about what clothes you wear. James 3 has a lot to say about how destructive the tongue is. Oh, and it doesn’t mention low-cut shirts…

    Also, I write poetry, a lot on this subject of sex and lust and men and how big of evil horrible jerks (I wanted to use an expletive) we can be, and I have a poem I would like to share with you. I am concerned about causing triggers if just anyone sees it (they are not explicit, but they are there – and I am no expert on triggers so I want to be careful), so I’m going to email it to you. I know you can’t respond but I hope you read it if you get time 🙂

  9. J. Byas says:

    Hooray for your bravery. And for your husband being a safe space for you. What a twisted culture that celebretizes and then shames for physical traits. Keep on being you. This was a painful but eye-opening piece to read.

  10. Maddy says:

    Thank-you for your courage. You are a woman of God, a woman I can look up to. I am so sorry for all of those harsh comments and realities that have been thrust upon you. I know as a young woman I have experienced similar events as well. I never knew I wasn’t alone in this, there is lots of other women who are targeted and blamed for a mans lust. Thank you for being outspoken on this topic and issue in the body of Christ that is so overlooked. I feel not so alone anymore, I can face tomorrow. Thankyou ever so much.

  11. Courtney says:

    I really liked what you wrote, but I also agree with Melissa. I’m surprised there aren’t more Bible verses in all of these comments, but ROMANS 14:13 says “…Make up your mind not to put any stumbling black or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” I think this is key.

    I’m a freshman at UT and am sometimes astounded by what some girls wear. Don’t hear me wrong, I see nothing wrong with a v-neck or shorts that aren’t “finger-tip” length. But there is a line that you can cross. It’s true, it’s not OUR fault that men lust after us, and if they lust after us when we wear a “target v-neck,” I don’t think it’s any fault of our own. However, if we’re wearing a skirt that barley covers our butt or a ridiculously low cut shirt or a shirt that is barely long enough to cover our bra, then it’s hard to ONLY blame the men for lusting. I DO believe things like that are stumbling blocks for men, and we’re called to not do anything that would cause or brothers and sisters to sin.

    I love to wear bikinis, but last summer by boyfriend of two years asked if I could wear shorts over my bottoms. I love him, and because I don’t want to be a source of temptation, I now wear bandeau tops (instead of string bikinis) and I wear athletic shorts over my bathing suit bottoms. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. If what I wear causes him to think things he shouldn’t, then I want to do what I can to help him stay away from those thoughts.

    My boyfriend always says “modest is hottest,” and I believe that applies to what Romans 14:13 says. It IS possible to dress too promiscuously, and when we do we cannot only blame men. I think MODESTY is the key.

    What you said about Jesus speaking to you, I think that is really beautiful and SO true. It’s so easy to forget that God views us all as BEAUTIFUL and that He created us in His image, exactly how He wanted us. Such a good reminder =] Keep being a strong woman of Christ for college students like me to look up to!

    • Courtney et al.,

      I definitely agree with you. I do definitely empathize with what Lauren has stated – and I’m in no ways condoning some of the inappropriate behavior that she has experience throughout her life as far as growing up etc. – nevertheless, I do believe that it’s both of our jobs, both men and woman of Christ, to live a life that is beyond reproach (1 Tim 3:2) insofar we do not allow our brothers and sisters to stumble (Rom 14:21) and potentially fall into sin. For example, Laurens comment at the end of her post would be the same mentality of drinking in front of Christian brother who is recovering from alcohol even if, perhaps, the asked them to not drink around them. I do not think it is wise to openly advertise your body and post it on the internet for any potential person to see if we are claiming a prudent (Prov 27:12), sober-minded (1 Pet 5:8), and holy lifestyle (1 Pet 1:16) that is purely above and beyond reproach so as not to allow others to stumble (1 Cor 8:13). Hope you all are encouraged.

      Blessings in Christ our Saviour,

      Brent

  12. Thomas Guenther says:

    I may be a little late to comment on this article. I…am shocked, though I shouldn’t be. Men hear the way other men talk about and to women. It’s beyond inappropriate. Lauren, I am impressed by your courage and starkness.
    This commenter is only innocent through Christ’s resurrection, not his actions. Wow, you’re 100% right, it’s not your fault. Haha, it’s not you all, it’s us; it’s sin. We Christian men do what we do not want to do. We want to honour and respect our “sisters” but we don’t always live according to the law of the Spirit.
    I do believe it is an act of love, not repression for men and women to be wise in what we wear. Just today I did up one more button on my shirt while driving to church because I didn’t want anyone suffering with lust the way I have/do. I wouldn’t pray that on any person. If I were advertising meth it wouldn’t be my fault if people went and did it, but I wouldn’t be helping. The body is good, saith the Lord, and his word is truth. I will express my sexuality fully with my wife and upon none other.
    I’d like to apologize for me and my gender. I’m part of the problem, I confess. May God bless you and your husband with a marriage that exemplifies Christ and the Church
    Thanks again. Your story is illuminating (and very well written)

    Thomas Guenther

  13. Alana says:

    Thank you for opening this mama’s eyes to this truth. This home-school mom who has taught my daughter to dress modestly and cringed at a photo of her in a bathing suit on social media. She needed to read this and the little girl inside of me who shares your story needed to read it too.

  14. ashlin says:

    YES, YES, YES!!!!! this is beautiful!

  15. Halls says:

    I know this is two years old, but I absolutely love it. It is what Grace is all about. So freeing. Just let Christ guide you in what you should or shouldn’t wear. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak to you about wearing a bikini then by all means strut your stuff. I am a pretty modest person by nature, but sometimes when I’m out with my hubby I might be a little daring and sexy in my attire. But it is for him and he loves it!! Enjoy life. It is to short to feel guilt because someone might look down on your for wearing that mini skirt. 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. […] curated by an LA-based blogger who I have a great deal of respect for: The Good Women Project and her personal blog.) Whether in Europe, the States, New Zealand, Lebanon, or places in between this objectification of […]

  2. […] In this post, (about which I hope to say more later) she gives a brief history of her sexual experiences. Here’s a sample: A first date who got violent when I refused to sleep with him after he bought me dinner. […]

  3. […] a kind of self-hatred. I didn’t realize this until a few months ago when reading another blog on this topic. As an adolescent girl I always felt like I didn’t have any body image issues. […]

  4. […] work of pulling out the tares so the wheat can thrive. Ann’s blog and dozens of others, like this one, that are coming across my path are exposing the lies in my heart, locating the seeds in my […]

  5. […] work of pulling out the tares so the wheat can thrive. Ann’s blog and dozens of others, like this one, that are coming across my path are exposing the lies in my heart, locating the seeds in my […]

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