…even Prim and Proper: Defensive [and better] New Year’s Resolutions for 2018
(c) 2018, Davd

I resolve to dress modestly when in public, during this year 2018.” (Did it in 2017; should be easy to continue—for me.)

I resolve to respect modesty in others.” (Likewise.)

I have read thousands of words about “MeToo” and other accusations of sexual harassment, in 2017 (especially the second half of.) Some accusations, it seems fair to surmise, are true. It seems equally fair to surmise that some are contrived to various degrees: Some exaggerated, some with context misrepresented, some leaving out “teasing”, some outright lies.

We men have had a problem, which most of us did not cause, shoved in our faces: Part of that problem, as Lesbian columnist Norah Vincent learned when she disguised herself and talked to men as if one of us, is that many women are not modest enough: Men find displays of women’s sexuality, distracting. If women were not projecting their sexuality, men’s sexuality would remain dormant in situations where it ought to1.

This old-fashioned solution to the problem is called modesty. It works (if not perfectly, at least far better than cosmetics and provocative clothing, both of which are sold far more to women than to men. Which ought to teach us something.)

So, let us regular, seldom or never harassing men resolve modesty as our contribution to minimizing harassment (and minimizing our risk of being harassed with accusations.) Let us dress and behave modestly (as most men i see, already do.) Let us urge women who do not dress and behave modestly, to do so.

Try this as a definition of modesty for purposes of argument over what counts as “sexual harassment”:
Modest dress covers all parts of the body, excepting the face and hands, that the individual does not want to allow others to touch.
(Modest conduct may take more words to define, but analogously. This blog will focus on clothing and cosmetics.)

Muslims are going to find this definition convenient enough… as are Mennonites, Hutterites, and most conservative Christians. Most men will, as long as we are not sunbathing or playing active sports2. Many, many, many, many women are likely to find it either uncomfortable, or a directive to cover their shoulders, knees, and quite possibly portions of their upper torsos.

Good. Immodest dress (and conduct, and cosmetics) distract. Designed to, they are. At work, at school, at church, at public meetings and even hockey games, sexual distraction takes away from the purpose of the gathering. It’s more socially efficient to be modest.

It’s quite possible to be modest; i have seen hundreds of women and girls be quite modest and enjoy their activities at the same time. (Most men, to repeat, are quite modest in public.)

Mennonite and Hutterite women such as i saw at a grocery store in Vegreville, Alberta last spring and summer, won’t have much difficulty. They dressed modestly in public as a matter of course.

I did not call them, nor their clothing, ugly. Their dresses were well tailored and “looked good on them” … but not “lusty”. There was no doubt that the women and girls wearing those dresses were female—and no hint they were “projecting their sexuality”. Modest, becoming feminine attire is possible; i have seen hundreds of Alberta women wearing it…and hundreds more outside Alberta; the Mennonite and Hutterite women’s dress was distinctive in being modest, and somewhat old-fashioned, in their special style and without exceptions.

Want to prevent workplace sexual harass ment? Make workplace sexuality unwelcome. Only especially indecent men—or women—will take initiatives that modest dress and conduct have signalled are not welcome.

Want to benefit the public treasury while supporting modesty? Tax the means of being immodest. Governments tax alcoholic drink, cigarettes, and plan to tax cannabis. Cosmetics and immodest clothing are also fair game.

Want a morally upright New Year’s Resolution? Resolve to be modest in dress and speech (and gesture.) It’s easier to keep than resolving, say, to lose ten kilos if you are overweight. It’s your contribution to ending the sexual harassment problem (a problem to which women’s immodesty has contributed more than average men have.) It’s your license to tell women who are projecting their sexuality, to cover up, tone down, and desist from distracting you.

That’s a good pay-off in virtue for a reasonable effort… and a good defence if anyone were thinking of accusing you of impropriety.


1… “nearly always,” one might qualify. There may be abnormal cases; but abnormal means what it says.

2… or in sauna—but in sauna, modesty has a different set of rules, and men and women don’t go into the steam room together unless they are close enough relatives to have shared toilet training… which also involves baring parts of the body normally covered.

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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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