When NCB meets NCG

[ 74 ] July 30, AD 2012 |

In the last few months since I subscribed to Auntie Seraphic,* I have repeatedly seen the acronyms “NCB” and “NCG” plastered all over the single young adult Catholic blogosphere. I was mystified at first until slowly, by examining the context and by repetition, I learned that they stand for “Nice Catholic Boy” and “Nice Catholic Girl” respectively. Once I learned this, it all became so clear, and a whole new social dimension was opened to my wondering eyes. Apparently, all around the Internet there are millions of NCG’s who want to marry an NCB. Alas, NCB’s are in short supply, or are just not that into you, so the NCG’s pine in vain.

 

Oddly enough the real world is sort of like the Internet in that respect. In the real world you meet a significant number of NCG’s, at Mass usually, or at Bible study, or perhaps (like me) you are related to all the best ones. If you pay attention you usually figure out that, sure enough, just like the Internet said, most of them would be quite happy to meet an NCG, settle down and get married. Or perhaps just get married, as they tend to be already a pretty settled down bunch on the whole.

 

The trouble is, however, that if you look around the venues in which one is likely to meet an NCG, you are likely to find that there is a decided shortage of NCB’s. In other words, the girls outnumber the boys. The NCB’s on their part, generally fall into three categories:

1) The Seminarians. Definitely the smallest category, and correlatively the most awesome.

2) The Taken Guys. These are either married (almost as rare as the seminarians. They tend to get whisked off to other realms.) Or the guys with girlfriends.

3) The unattached. These are the guys who are the enigma of the group. They seem to be NCB’s. At least they are showing up to Mass or Bible study, or that Catholic group (or maybe they are only showing up to Mass and leaving immediately afterwards. But that’s something isn’t it?) They aren’t running around with loose women or doing drugs. They seem to enjoy themselves when someone (and by someone I mean the girls) organizes some party or get-together. But they don’t do anything! There are all those NCG’s just waiting for some guy to make a move so we can get on with the whole courtship/dating, engagement, marriage thing. And these guys aren’t doing anything. Great guys, but what on earth can be keeping them?

 

It is a just question, but unfortunately one that can hardly be answered in the context in which it is asked. There is the easy answer, of course. Men just aren’t as anxious as women usually are to get married and start a family, but in other ages this didn’t seem to be much of an obstacle. If the only way a young man is going to have sex is to marry, this becomes a powerful incentive towards marriage. But in our present age we have the phenomenon of a whole generation of men who are (apparently) living the Church’s teaching in this regard, but without the incentive to seek out a Catholic woman to marry. Why?

 

The answers are certainly many and varied. The preference for interacting on the Internet rather than in real life is one factor. (One can accomplish a great many things on the Internet. Procreation is not one of those things.) A general lack of maturity is certainly another (video games: all the fun of adventure, none of the risk). The amount of time, energy and money it takes to get a career started in our society accounts for some of the more motivated ones. Some have invested themselves in other work, or in hobbies, or (oh Horrors!) ministries! When your life is full of deeply rewarding work that eats up 90 hours of every week, while paying for only about 30 of those hours, it’s not surprising that there might be no room for a relationship.

 

I humbly suggest, however, that the answer really comes down to a question of wisdom. I define wisdom very simply as the virtue of knowing and choosing the most valuable. This hobby is all very well and good. This job certainly sucks up much of my time and energy, but how valuable is it, really? What is its value in the transcendent realm? Will it make me holy and happy? Will it help anyone else become holy and happy? If not, then why should I waste any more of myself on it? When I am fifty, which will be more important to me? The ladder’s I have climbed at work, or the relationships I have built?

 

Yes, the Church is full of NCB’s. Not so full as she might be, unfortunately, but they are there. And yes, they are nice, and they are Catholic, but they are boys. What the NCG’s are waiting for is for these NCB’s to stand up and turn into GCM’s. (That’s Good Catholic Men. You see what I did there?)

 

But then, I humbly submit, we might just find the shoe on the other foot. Suddenly we might find that the NCG’s had gotten more than they bargained for. I wonder sometimes, have you ever stopped to think what a GCM would really look like? I can tell you, he won’t be a thing like your girlfriends, and that has nothing to do with whether or not he enjoys shopping. He will be a man. Male. Masculine. Other than you. The pursuit of holiness does not make men and women more similar. It certainly makes them more understanding, but in my experience it makes them unmistakeably more different. A holy man is more manly than a secular one. A holy woman is more feminine than a secular one. Have you ever really considered what a life completely dedicated to God would look like in the lay world? Have you ever pictured the intensity, the single-mindedness with which a man (as opposed to a boy) pursues that which he has chosen? A true GCM is never going to belong entirely to his wife. He will have another life outside. He will have a vocation that is not you, and it will be his life’s work. That is a reality that you will have to deal with, on top of the other realities that go along with any man/woman relationship.

 

On top of that, you have the fact that any GCM is a person, an individual, unlike any other. He alone is the only one of him in all of history. His strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, are his alone. His preferences are his alone. The fact that he is striving to be a true man of God does not guarantee that he won’t leave the toilet seat up. It does not mean that he won’t find fart jokes hilarious. Some interpersonal drama that upsets your entire day may seem comically petty to him.

 

The problem with a GCM (as with any Man) is that he is another creature. He is unpredictable, untameable, himself. Not you. (This is something that men already know about women. We are more than prepared to shrug our shoulders and say, “She’s in one of her moods,” or “Women! Guess you never really understand them.” We don’t need to be encouraged not to worry our heads about it.)

 

So our NCG, upon finding that her long awaited NCB has up and decided to become a GCM, finds herself faced with the necessity of herself becoming a GCW. (Yes. That just happened. You’re welcome.) Maturity calls for maturity, strength for strength, passion for passion, humor for humor, goofiness for goofiness. Imitate what you would admire. You will not regret it, whether or not that GCM ever does show up.

 

 

 

*I don’t want anyone to think I am making fun of Auntie Seraphic. I’m not even making fun of her commenter’s (which is a lot easier to do.) If you have never read any of her blogs, you should check her out. She is a wise, warm, witty and loving writer with a pen of steel and a heart of gold.

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Category: Single Life

About the Author ()

Ryan Kraeger is a cradle Catholic homeschool graduate, currently serving as an Army Special Forces Medical Sergeant, stationed on the West Coast. He enjoys reading, thinking, and conversation, the making and eating of gourmet pizza, shooting and martial arts, and the occasional dark beer. His website is The Man Who Would Be Knight.
  • richard

    Very interesting insights.

  • http://www.seraphicsinglescummings.blogspot.com Seraphic

    I’m sorry you would find it “easier” to mock my commentators, and I think you owe them an apology.

    My blog is primarily for Catholic Single women and for other women of good will. I would like my readers to feel comfortable saying what they truly think and feel without being mocked.

    If men read my blog, I expect them to mind their manners and to treat both me and my target audience with respect.

    The vast majority of my readers are Roman Catholic women who strive to be orthodox and humbly take teaching and correction from priests. From Catholic laymen not their fathers or husbands, not so much.

  • http://www.seraphicsinglescummings.blogspot.com Seraphic

    My edited comment did not go through, so let me soften my first thoughts by thanking you for the shout-out. You should know, too, that on my blog the terms NCB and NCB are used with humour and affection.

    I have no idea if I have spawned a usage now sweeping the Catholic blogosphere, but I personally adapted the expressions from the American expression “a Nice Jewish Boy/Girl” as in “Why can’t you marry…?”

  • http://notaminx.blogspot.com Trista

    Interesting post. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    As a Seraphic reader, though, I have to say, “Hey! I thought GCM wouldn’t make fun of women?”

  • Elizabeth

    Interesting post, but I have to disagree.
    Dismissing your wife’s emotions with a “She’s in one of her moods,” or “Women! Guess you never really understand them” does NOT help with the unitive aspect of marriage. Setting up stereotypes (“He’s a jock. He can’t emote.” “She’s a women. She loves to shop and be a drama queen.”) is polarizing. Theology of the Body makes it clear that God gave both man and woman the ability to nurture, strength, compassion, etc…complementarity means that the genders will demonstrate those gifts differently.
    It is also not a good thing for either spouse to claim their virtues/vices/strengths/weaknesses as their own…married couples are called to seek sanctification together. It takes an awful lot of vulnerability and courage to be a GCM or GCW.

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  • Perinatal Loss Nurse

    I didnt see Ryan’s comments as mocking or dismissive, I think he was brave to bring a subject that has a lot of idealism attached to it into a place of (perhaps) more reality. And that reality may not fit into polite little boxes.

    His point well taken that GCM may exert his strenth and authority in a way that wasn’t what you had in mind…a good example in my life is when my GCM husband had the option to not go on a military deployment but he chose to go. He went because he was a warrior as well as a husband. His decision made my life harder than if he had stayed home but it was my job as a GCW to do my part.

    Maybe I’m wrong about this, but from observation, it seems to me that a lot of women early in relationships want to domesticate thier man. When I see a couple in the housewares aisle with the woman really trying to get from him his opinion about a table runner, I want to go over to her and say “he doesnt care, really, leave him alone about it”.

    Making a life with a GCM will likely be MUCH more of a challenge than most NCGs envision when they daydream about NCBs and I think this post was a good way to dialoge about it.

  • http://www.seraphicsinglescummings.blogspot.com Seraphic

    My only objection was that he suggested my regular readers, the ones who make comments, could be made fun of.

    No doubt there are women who are surprised when they discover that their husbands don’t like to shop or offer opinions on table runners. My long-term readers certainly would not be among them.

  • Confused

    And your point here is?

  • Perinatal Loss Nurse

    I re-read the article looking for where he was making fun of people and I don’t see it. Anyone who thinks this article was harsh should be really glad that they arent married to my GCM, his wit is 15 times more caustic than this on a tame day.

  • http://worthyofagape.com Amanda

    This post was FABULOUS. Great insights, thought-provoking and humorous! Thanks for sharing!

  • Scott W

    I think Seraphic’s first comment actually shows one of the root problems of marriage today. She proudly affirms that her readers will not “humbly take teaching and correction” from Catholic laymen while they will from priests and some relatives. First of all, the Seraphic Doctor himself, St. Francis, would remind us that humility is never out of season and you never know who the Holy Spirit will send to help you. But it is this spirit of independence–buying into our culture’s idols of autonomy and self-actualization–that has left many men wary of marriage. You can’t simply turn these characteristics on or off: “I’ll humbly listen to my priest or husband, but that’s it.” Very few women today in the West will trust their husband’s judgment regarding an important issue they disagree about. And so many men–myself included–just let the wife have her way and they take the road of humility and patience. But the relationship suffers because she has usurped the man’s role, and the wife is harder to love.

  • http://www.seraphicsinglescummings.blogspot.com Seraphic

    “I’m not even making fun of her commenter’s (which is a lot easier to do.)”

    Given the personal feelings and experiences my readers choose to share in my comments box, I take exception to this remark. I’m put in the very strange position of being praised myself but of being honour-bound to defend the women who actively participate in my blog.

    Sadly, I would not have taken offense to Ryan’s post had he not added this codicil. It would never have occurred to me that Ryan’s essay might have been making fun of either me or my readers. And I do not believe it is. I just question the sideswipe at the very bottom of his post.

  • http://www.seraphicsinglescummings.blogspot.com Seraphic
  • http://notaminx.blogspot.com Trista

    Again, just to chime in – the only part I find him to be making fun of women is the last dig – “I’m not even making fun of her commenter’s (which is a lot easier to do.)” Before that sentence, I didn’t know he thought poorly of Seraphic or her blog fans.

    I also find myself in agreement with Elizabeth’s points above.

  • Anon

    I think Ryan has a lot of good points, especially about both sides having to become more than just “nice.” I’ll use the anonymity of the internet to say that I’ve known many NCGs who have been interested in me, and thus I have the experience of being the NCB who doesn’t initiate or respond to interest. The main reason for this is usually that I’m just not really impressed with her.

    While I’ve met a lot of girls who are enthusiastic about the faith, that doesn’t always correlate with knowledge or practice. For example, immodesty. A lot of the Catholic girls I’ve known probably couldn’t identify what, say, “Chalcedon” refers to, or give a robust defense of the faith beyond the bare basics. A big turnoff for me is a lack of drive. For a lot of girls, it sees as though the goal is to meet a NCB, get pregnant, and read storybooks to the toddlers. That’s all good, but where’s the passion to convert the world, solve fundamental problems of knowledge, build up the body of Christ, and be a badass while doing it?

    I think this relates to the whole of being “nice” for both genders. Being “nice” isn’t a virtue, and it isn’t attractive. What is attractive is greatness, beauty,and excellence, across the board. “Nice” implies passivity when there should spiritedness, the “thumos” of Plato. Being nice isn’t enough- we need to be magnificent and great. I think that’s part of Ryan’s point- nice Catholic girls complain that Magnificent Catholic Man hasn’t shown up, but would this MCM be interested in them if he did? Are they really magnificent Catholic women themselves, or just nice Catholic girls?

    I don’t mean by this that everyone should become a hardcore missionary and philosopher. Pretty much anything can be done excellently, included reading storybooks to toddlers. People like St. Therese didn’t do outwardly extraordinary actions, but her drive and passion for the contemplative and religious life made her a magnificent human being. She became magnificent by responding to grace and living out her individual vocation.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that a lot of the NCGs I’ve encountered who are seeking a husband end up turning me off for one or several reasons:
    1) Inconsistency, such as immodest photos on facebook, etc.
    2) A lack of knowledge going deeper than praise and worship and obvious basics.
    3) A lack of a gameplan to become a magnificent human being and the spiritedness to strive for that excellence. Mediocrity is not attractive.

  • SamPLW

    I agree with Anon in part. As a Catholic boy who is an active part of a couple Catholic Young Adult groups and also an avid Catholic blog reader, there appears to be a fairly widespread expectation among NCGs that we should be tame. By tame I mean that we should be soft spoken, moderate in the expression of our opinions, pliable, and overall just bland.

    Now, I’ll be the first to admit to passivity and immaturity on my part, but there’s not much motivation to “man up” and “get out there” when the ideal I’m supposed to live up to looks mostly like sappy and passive mutual dependence. I know that modernity makes a mess of us all, but the part where it encourages women to be fierce and independent isn’t bad. Nice Catholic Girls and Boys seem so caught up with the nice part that they forget to have a personality of their own.

    Caveat: This *was* a sweeping generalization and I know there must be plenty of Catholic ladies that don’t expect men to act this way. However, many Catholic dating advice columns seem to suggest Catholic men be old fashioned in silly ways, and it’s frustrating to read.

  • Maria

    I’m afraid I take exception to more than just that I am supposedly “easy to make fun of”.
    Why would you assume that I want to be married to someone “like my girlfriends”? “He will be a man. Male. Masculine.” I certainly hope so, otherwise what’s the point? Isn’t the whole Catholic concept of marriage being a heterosexual thing that it roots itself in the complementarity, NOT similarity of the sexes?
    Why do you assume I expect this man to be perfect? Why do you assume I don’t know what a great Catholic man is like? I know some, after all. Unfortunately, they’re my relatives. Or seminarians. Or priests. Or married/engaged/in a marriage-track relationship. Or, yes, just not attractive/attracted to me.
    I’m frankly shocked to discover that The Man Who Would Be Knight, whom I believed to be sincerely preoccupied with genuine chivalry, would write this. You think it’s easy to “make fun of” women who find it frustrating and painful to feel called to marriage and not meet the right man? Well, I suppose it can be. But I think this neither Nice nor Manly, nor, may I say, very Catholic.

  • http://www.almostnotcatholic.com Brent

    Perinatal said:

    “Maybe I’m wrong about this, but from observation, it seems to me that a lot of women early in relationships want to domesticate thier man. When I see a couple in the housewares aisle with the woman really trying to get from him his opinion about a table runner, I want to go over to her and say “he doesnt care, really, leave him alone about it”.”

    Nice! I’ll be putting up a post tomorrow about this problem…kind of.

  • Nathan

    “A holy man is more manly than a secular one. A holy woman is more feminine than a secular one.” — Great line.

  • Elizabeth

    Ryan, I give you credit for putting your ideas out there.

    Also, as a woman, I think I speak for a considerable number of us when I say that we know men are not women. I would even take it a step farther to say that just as men each have their own callings and their own ways of pursuing them, so do women. I’m confused by your statement that women “have to deal with” the “reality” of their husbands’ work. What is there to deal with? Far be it from me to get between a man (or anyone) and his/her life’s work, whatever it may be. Is my husband not also called to support me in what I’m doing with my life as well? I’m not sure what your point is.

    As an aside, I find it really reductionist and ineffective when people of either gender point to blanket stereotypes to make a point. (I am a woman who really doesn’t care about table runners either, to point out one of a number of examples provided here.)

    It seems to me, Anon, that seeking one’s own magnificence might be a better use of time and energy than citing others’ mediocrity. Nobody does anyone any credit or honor by dating someone they find unimpressive, so I think that’s a great policy. I agree that we are all called to become saints as best we can, though what that looks like for other people, in their respective relationships with God, isn’t really my problem to judge.

  • Oh come on

    Nothing turns a boy into a man faster than falling in love with a girl. And vice versa, nothing turns a girl into a woman faster than falling in love with a boy.

    What happens so often is that these relationships fail, and the hurt boy and the hurt girl proceed with much greater trepidation in the future. Relationship by relationship and date by date, our fine boys are gelded, our fine girls are made to feel ashamed.

    Why do relationships fail? Why should an “NCB” and an “NCG” not hit it off? The answer is that the structure of dating (and its antecedent “courtship”), borrowed from anti-Christian modernity (which began well before the last Century), is utterly insane. Sinful boys and sinful girls are at great risk of hurting each other when they spend idle time alone together outside of the bonds of marriage. The hurts build up, the option for escape is never forsaken, and eventually one party heads for the exits. While the greatest hurts are unchastity and unfaithfulness, these are far from the only or even the most common causes of Catholic relationship failure. A “trial marriage”, even when conducted in a chaste and entirely appropriate way, is a sham. What makes marriage marriage is the lifelong, unbreakable commitment. This is the greatest motivation to forgive the other their faults!

    If you look around the world at various religions and nations, you’ll find that the happiest and longest-lasting marriages are arranged marriages. Finding a good spouse is not really rocket science…faith, youth, and lack of impediments are essential, with virtue being “nice to have”. The point of marriage is to increase virtue, after all. Even faith ought to increase as a result of true marriage. It will always take a leap of faith to willingly enter a marriage.

    Since we cannot change the system, the best we can do is do our best to remain faithful to whoever we are with, and not to dump the NCB or NCG you are with, just because you discover that she is imperfect or a sinner. Pray and forgive, like you would do if she were your wife. And if she does the same, and you both endure the socially acceptable length of time required to appreciate each other’s company before you can propose, and the ecclesiastically-acceptable time between proposal and celebration, then eventually you will be able to experience the great unity of matrimony with the sinful wretch who could be headed for Hell if it wasn’t for you in her life, and who may well end up saving your own soul for eternity in Heaven with all the Angels and Saints.

    A sweet, holy death, laying in bed at home, anointed and surrounded by children and grandchildren praying the Rosary…does it really matter if you lived 40 years with someone whose farts smell, if that is the end achieved?

  • Anon

    “It seems to me, Anon, that seeking one’s own magnificence might be a better use of time and energy than citing others’ mediocrity. Nobody does anyone any credit or honor by dating someone they find unimpressive, so I think that’s a great policy. I agree that we are all called to become saints as best we can, though what that looks like for other people, in their respective relationships with God, isn’t really my problem to judge.”

    Agree totally, and I realize what I meant might not have come through as I intended. A lot of the time I come across girls who constantly complain about the lack of impressive Catholic men, when at the same time I think their own criticism could be applied back to themselves. I think the best way to go about this problem is to focus on making ourselves as best as possible.

    I guess I’m just frustrated because I’ll meet some pretty girl at mass who seems very Catholic and devout, and we’ll hit it off, and then later I’ll start seeing bikini photos showing up on my facebook newsfeed. At that point I’m just like “what?” That, or I’ll find out that her knowledge of the faith is primarily gleaned from Christian radio. So close!

    I’m sure the same observations apply to guys, though I’m not qualified to comment.

  • Anon

    Hopefully this didn’t come across as arrogant! I just thought it might be worthwhile to give a NCB account of why sometimes we won’t initiate.

  • Savage

    Well said and the knickers in a bunch group are proving your point. American Catholics are faintly ready for Catholic men to be on the scene. Topic was presented pretty well in “For Greater Glory”. Too few boys striving to be men, too few boys striving to be saints.

  • Jacob S

    “Again, just to chime in – the only part I find him to be making fun of women is the last dig – “I’m not even making fun of her commenter’s (which is a lot easier to do.)” Before that sentence, I didn’t know he thought poorly of Seraphic or her blog fans.”

    I have to admit that I at least am surprised by the offense taken here, so wanted to point out that as a general rule, men either making a little fun of something(one) or thinking it’s easy to do so does NOT equate to men thinking poorly of that something(one).

    In fact it’s quiet often the opposite. See:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO-QXw4PJ6g. We tend to make fun of things we think highly of even more than things we don’t. Or consider how a bunch of guys interact with each other. “So how’s life as a corporate drone?” “Oh, fair to middlin. You still enjoying that dead end job of yours?”

    Really, we don’t mean anything by it most of the time.

  • oh boy

    I have to chuckle at the idea that young Catholic men are sitting around waiting to be “wowed” by a girl who REALLY knows her stuff! She not only knows the catechism but can cite the patristic sources! She knows the history of the Immaculate Conception controversy! She can cite the Council of Orange! She has grand ambitions that don’t just orbit around having a home and birthing children! She studies epistemology and is also a badass (?) possibly by spending her nights at the shooting range (??). Or maybe she just reads to toddlers “excellently”?

    I laugh because I AM that girl (minus the shooting range) and let me tell you what: it has not proven to be a man-magnet. Perhaps you are unique among men — but ambitiously solving the world’s problems is not high on the list of what most men seem to want in a woman, and most girls and (anyway young) women spend a lot of time trying to be what boys/men want (much more time than men spend), so I’m not impressed by your complaints. I won’t even touch the immodesty thing. Until every Christian young man can swear that he has never so much as peeked at pornography, he doesn’t get to say a word against female immodesty, since these girls are, once again, just trying to gain approval and attention from men who WILL GIVE IT TO THEM. And the sexual exploitation and predation involved in porn is far worse than the vanity or insecurity involved in posting certain pictures of oneself to Facebook (though they are not unrelated phenomena).

    So basically: I am that girl with drive, and part of my passionate pursuit of truth (at least this morning) is telling men who make unjust and entitled complaints about women to sit down. But to all the men who would drive by and tell me that my attitude is the reason marriage is failing/women nowadays are unlovable/girls should meekly submit to strange men/I’m just going to go get a mail-order bride — have no fear, I am just pursuing excellence.

    P.S. But to Ryan, I didn’t find the original post all that offensive, outside of some condescension (women don’t really want to suck men into their maw and never let them find outside fulfillment, and not taking what women say or think seriously is not usually a sign that you have graciously accepted their otherness, but that you have dismissively Othered them). Overall I thought you were just telling men to get wise about what is important and get serious about their lives if they wanted to attract women. And essentially I agree with that.

  • Jess

    “He will have a vocation that is not you, and it will be his life’s work.”

    This is just bad theology. He may have an avocation that is his life’s work. But if he is called to the sacrament of marriage, then it is his only vocation to seek union with God through marriage to his wife and fatherhood of his (potential) children. I think this belies a bit of secular creep into the mentality of (some) Catholic men.

  • http://girlwhowassaturday.blogspot.com/ TGWWS

    OK, I guess I’m one of the ones who found the original post a wee bit offensive. Why? Well …

    I humbly submit, men might just find the shoe on the other foot. Suddenly they might they’d gotten more than they bargained for. Have you ever stopped to think what a GCW would really look like? I can tell you, she won’t be a thing like your male friends, and that has nothing to do with whether or not she enjoys football. She will be a women. Female. Feminine. Other than you. … Have you ever really considered what a life completely dedicated to God would look like in the lay world? Have you ever pictured the intensity, the single-mindedness with which a woman (as opposed to a girl) pursues that which she has chosen? A true GCW is never going to belong entirely to her husband. She will belong first and foremost to Christ …

    I could go on; but really! The problem is not so much what Ryan says, as the fact that it’s awfully one sided. His points about maturity are correct, but there’s little or no acknowledgement of the fact that sometimes it’s the woman who’s more mature than the man.

  • Anon

    I’ll agree that many men probably aren’t particularly seeking those sorts of things, but all I can give is my own experience.

    For example, sometimes I’ll hear things like “you need to MAN UP and start dating a woman!” The idea here is that men are all passive and unassertive and that they can’t muster the courage to pursue a woman. While this can be the case (I have seen it), I don’t think it’s necessarily so. There can be reasons (varies with the individual somewhat, of course) why a man will deliberately choose not to pursue. Sometimes it seems like women will take to the internet and bemoan the “crisis of Catholic masculinity,” about how modern Catholic men are too passive to court them. This may well be true in part, but I think it’s also worthwhile to consider whether the man might have concrete reasons for choosing not to pursue.

    Men do this all the time too, and I’m not trying to blame women or anything. For example, men will sometimes think that a woman who declines him must have “emotional baggage” when in reality she just isn’t impressed.

    Obviously a guy who watches porn loses all legitimacy as a man and potential husband, but I don’t see how this would justify immodesty.

    I realize now that I probably sounded like a pompous dolt in my first post, but what I was trying to say was basically that sometimes men will not pursue because they are not impressed, not because they are passive.

  • oh boy

    @Anon — thanks for continuing the conversation. I actually don’t have any personal complaints to make about the passivity of Catholic (young?) men. It makes total sense to me that men might just not have an interest in X girl, because I also just don’t have an interest in Y boy. Maybe if I ever find myself in a bustling little Catholic social circle where the men inexplicably fail to date the women, I’ll have the same complaint, but so far my impression has been that most of the single Catholic people ARE in a romantic relationship or something close to it. Certainly most of the “nice Catholic boys” I meet are already dating or married. So I don’t really know if passivity is the problem.

    I suppose my point about modesty was that it puts the weight of blame on the girl (“she is too immodest, I am no longer interested”) when really there are many reasons that girls either (1) do not realize when they are being immodest, or (2) present that way not to incite lust or, I don’t know, try and being risque hotties, but because they have been overwhelmingly signaled by the male population and the broader culture that this is the most prestigious way to present themselves — as hot. I don’t personally think men (certainly Christian) men should talk to women at all about modesty, even as the “kind brother asking for help.” It only serves to further a culture where women’s bodies are examined, judged, and monitored at all times by all people but principally men. And men have never experienced what it is like to live constantly under this kind of scrutiny.

    Ultimately though I am not sure how effective anyone’s attempts to “tell you how to be a man/woman” are, unless it’s an older, trusted member of the same sex talking. Women may tend to be resentful and distrustful when talking to men about men, and men can certainly seem entitled and arrogant when talking to women. But I’m glad if your original post came off differently from your intent, and yeah, thanks for clarifying what you meant!

  • Claire

    I jusr this to my 6 unmarried sons.

  • Anon

    I don’t think I can totally agree with your position on modesty. Why shouldn’t I be concerned with whether a potential girlfriend is following the commands of the Church? Dressing immodestly is objectively sinful according to the Church. As a consequence, why would it be improper, as a NCB, to be concerned with whether someone I am interested in is in fact following the faith? This has less to do with men judging women and more with the Church setting down rules of conduct, although sexuality is the reason the Church rules the way it does.

    Now, obviously you’re right that often women can lack knowledge of why modesty is required and what constitutes modesty. This ignorance reduces culpability, as with any sin. However, I don’t think you can ask me to find ignorance attractive in its own right. Why should I find ignorance of Catholic ethics attractive?

    It would seem foolish to me to dismiss a women solely because of this issue. Certainly I have had my blind spots before and I probably still have a few. However, this doesn’t change the fact that blind spots for anyone are still bad. Thus, I would discuss the issue of immodesty with anyone I was thinking of being serious with. If she agrees with the Church and changes her behavior, great, if not, then I wouldn’t pursue a relationship with her. Obviously I would expect her to treat me the same way if I turned out to be violating Catholic ethics in some manner. The whole point of dating is to form an accurate judgment of the person’s suitability to be your spouse, and I don’t think anything should be ignored in this regard.

  • oh boy

    I said I wasn’t going to get into the modesty thing, but here I am! I’ll try and be concise because this is the Christian Conversation That Will Not End, and I’m convinced it is rooted in a good deal of societal misogyny and objectification of women. After all, men can appear sloppy or inappropriately dressed or dirty, but attempting to use the language of immodesty for men always sounds forced — because it is. The language of modesty and purity was forged to talk about women’s bodies and sexuality relative to men’s interests.

    “Dressing immodestly is objectively sinful according to the Church.”

    Okay, but modesty is not an objective science, no matter what early 20th century encyclicals say. All reasonable people of our time should be able to accept that, say, the traditional dress of people in some areas of Africa or South America is not immodest for them, despite the fact that it would be for us. But if modesty is culturally conditioned, we still all belong to a culture, so modesty does exist relative to our communities. But where exactly that line is drawn is a question that, these days, only seems worth discussing to weirdly fixated men on the internet (not saying this is you), or Christian teenage girls’ magazines. In fact, most of us know which clothes signal sexiness and which signal professionalism or so on. But some of these lines vary by very small communities. And sometimes girls dress the way they do because of how *personally* comfortable they are with their bodies and their appearance and with how they are perceived. This is my main beef with people (particularly men) attempting to weigh in. Men are socialized to distance themselves a bit from their appearance — they can take a teasing comment about facial hair or accept criticism of their clothing in a different way, which doesn’t tear away at something they feel to be integral to their person. But girls and women are socialized to see their appearance as integral to their person. This is incredibly deeply-seated even when you’re aware of it, as I am. Women are identified with their dress and appearance in an incredibly intimate way, and they are routinely praised, scorned, or judged on the basis of this identification. So in fact, it is NOT a clear-cut moral issue for a man to sit around discussing a woman’s appearance with her, even if she is his girlfriend or his wife. It is more than some kind of behavior or attitude, and it is a point on which she is more vulnerable than he will understand.

    I do think girls should dress modestly, but this is largely relative to how they perceive what modesty feels like, and maybe through gentle influence from peers or whatever, so that they can have a sensitive understanding for how certain clothes make them appear, or how they are comfortable being looked at. I myself dress usually very modestly, but for my own reasons which I have no reason to go into. If a man EVER tried to talk to me about how I dress, I would want to tell him to get out. I understand what you’re saying, that you are willing to be forgiving at first but ultimately you would have trouble being with a girl whose sense of dress or comportment made you uncomfortable. My girl perspective would be: in learning to know this theoretical girl, don’t say ANYTHING about how she dresses, and if in the end you aren’t comfortable being with a girl who wears a bikini in front of other men (or whatever), then I guess that’s the way it is. But modesty is not a criterion you get to pull out of your back pocket and discuss how she measures up. Don’t be complicit in the objectification of women’s bodies, let alone the body of the woman you might love. We are Catholics, and we know that the body is the intimate spouse of the soul, inextricable from our earthly road to salvation. With the caveat that the soul is metaphysically higher than the body, each person’s body is their own self, a Subject. Women are already ripped from this unity because of society’s brutal attempts to make them into Objects. Every Christian dude on the internet who goes around scrutinizing what they can or can’t see on a strange woman’s body and how that makes them feel is participating in making a culture where women aren’t allowed to view their bodies in a neutral, desexualized way the way men most often do, and moreover causes many girls to worry and hurt even more over how they appear to men. Modesty is important but it is NOT a male topic. I am well aware that innumerable popes and monks and priests and medieval moralists thought it was a male topic, but well. Tough cookies!

  • Anon

    “I do think girls should dress modestly, but this is largely relative to how they perceive what modesty feels like, and maybe through gentle influence from peers or whatever, so that they can have a sensitive understanding for how certain clothes make them appear, or how they are comfortable being looked at.”

    No, no, no! Modesty is not about how “you” feel. That’s moral relativism. Consider this article about JPII’s “Love and Responsibility:”
    http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2012/07/dr-sri-to-inspire-love-a-return-to-modesty/

    “Now we are prepared to explore the three aspects of sexual shame presented by Wojtyla. We have already touched upon the first aspect — how shame leads us to conceal sexual values so that they don’t produce a merely utilitarian reaction in another person. A woman should want to avoid dressing in a way that deliberately draws attention to her sexual values and obscures her value as a person. Certain types of clothing (or lack thereof) are bound to elicit a sensual reaction that puts her in a position of being treated as an object of enjoyment.

    But here some women may object: “Why is it my responsibility to dress modestly? If a man struggles with lustful thoughts, that’s his problem, not mine.” But this objection misses Wojtyla’s point. The purpose of modesty is not merely to help prevent men from stumbling into impure thoughts. Modesty of dress is primarily meant to protect the woman herself. It helps keep the woman from being treated as an object for sexual pleasure.”

    Your whole argument is predicated on the idea that modesty is relative to how women feel. You say that “modesty is important but it is NOT a male topic.” This makes no sense. Ignoring homosexuality, the people who take sexual pleasure in a woman’s body are men. Without men, there is no one to take unwarranted sexual pleasure in a female body, and therefore there is no risk of objectification and no need for modesty.

    You’re right that culture influences modesty, but that’s not relevant to us. Men raised in a western culture find bikinis sexually arousing. That’s not surprising, given that there’s hardly any difference between wearing a bikini and going naked (a few square inches of cloth). Thus, a bikini really is immodest in relation to western men.

    “Don’t be complicit in the objectification of women’s bodies, let alone the body of the woman you might love…Every Christian dude on the internet who goes around scrutinizing what they can or can’t see on a strange woman’s body and how that makes them feel is participating in making a culture where women aren’t allowed to view their bodies in a neutral, desexualized way the way men most often do, and moreover causes many girls to worry and hurt even more over how they appear to men. ”

    Our bodies aren’t neutral or asexual. The goal is not to forget the fact that we have sexual bodies. You seem to be suggesting that sexuality should not influence how we think about our bodies. The fact of the matter is, we are created by God as sexual beings, and thus we shouldn’t forget about what God has created. Once we accept the fact that we are sexual beings, and that due to original sin there is a risk of perverting nature, the question becomes how we can best keep our sexuality in line with our natural end. We do that not by forgetting about our sexuality and pretending that it doesn’t exist, but rather by recognizing it and carefully restricting it to proper use. Sexuality is like fire- the goal is not to forget about its existence, but to recognize the good and bad that can come from it and be accordingly very careful in its use.

  • Anon

    “Women are identified with their dress and appearance in an incredibly intimate way, and they are routinely praised, scorned, or judged on the basis of this identification. So in fact, it is NOT a clear-cut moral issue for a man to sit around discussing a woman’s appearance with her, even if she is his girlfriend or his wife.”

    But see, if she valued her own emotional identification with how she dresses more than revealed moral imperatives, I would not be impressed and I wouldn’t marry her in the first place. That’s like saying that because young men are raised to identify manhood with the ability to score as many chicks as possible and are judged accordingly, it’s somehow cruel to them to object to the behavior.

    Naturally I think tact and compassion should be used in any such awkward conversation, but a man should not be willing to bend the rules of morality to how a woman feels about herself. I think this was one of Ryan’s points- “A true GCM is never going to belong entirely to his wife. He will have another life outside. He will have a vocation that is not you, and it will be his life’s work. That is a reality that you will have to deal with, on top of the other realities that go along with any man/woman relationship.”

  • oh boy

    Yes indeed, we are sexual beings. So you are saying that you would be as concerned about a woman seeing a man in a Speedo as a man seeing a woman in a bikini? I just want to underline this. You think that “we” are sexual beings. But I would like to hear an HONEST example of ways in which you think that men, let’s just say STRAIGHT men being looked at by straight women, fall into the pitfall of immodesty. Most parts of the male body are seen as neutral or asexual. I would venture to guess that you, personally, have never felt a moment of genuine guilt for some “slip” into immodesty in front of a woman — and not embarrassment even, but guilt? Girls feel this and are told to feel this, routinely, starting from the age of maybe 10 or even earlier. Think about how that would change how you feel about your body.

    And no, it is not moral relativism. Modesty is about gaze. JP2 also talks about the loss of the integrity of Adam’s gaze. Part of how a girl feels about how she appears is how aware she is (or is not, but she is usually aware, even if in a naive or unrealistic way) about how she is LOOKED AT. I can guarantee you that men do not know what it means to be LOOKED AT, and told you are being LOOKED AT, their whole lives. So don’t turn around and say that men have just as much as stake in modesty, because they are the ones being aroused. No freaking duh! The whole thing turns on the fact that men are aroused by naked femaleness and want (for various reasons) to control this arousal. Yet it is women who are made to carry most of the moral and ALL of the social burden of male lust. The entire social burden. Maybe if you have some sisters or some girl friends who are NOT romantically interested in who you could talk to about this, to understand. Or maybe not. When I talked about what modesty “feels” like, I meant that a girl should understand modesty for her own benefit, because modesty should (to expand some on the quote you offered) provide a kind of shelter for personhood, a space for privacy and proper, mature self-possession — the kind of self-possession that is necessary for any kind of self-gift. But it is a protection because of the already broken gaze of the man, who seemingly CANNOT easily see both an integrated human being and a sexual woman. That quote naively contrasts the display of “sexual values” with the revelation of personhood, as if the more sexual a woman appears, the less she is a person. This is only true in practice because of fallen human nature, specifically male misogyny and sin.

    My point was not that modesty doesn’t affect men, but that it is not something that men should talk about, in the public sphere or personally to women. What is gentlemanly about saying to a woman, a human being, “the way you dress makes it easy for me to objectify you?” “I have this problem where I depersonalize you based on what I see of your body parts and how they make me feel — please work on it.” No. No man should comment on the way a woman dresses. Ever. If you don’t like it, stop looking. Men may have to struggle with impurity, lust, and an objectifying gaze internally, but by making it a public topic, it just perpetuates the violence of the Fall, where men cannot look at women and see human beings, but just more females who have to account to men for the reactions they stir in them. I’m not saying modesty shouldn’t exist. I’m saying it should be something that women talk about with each other and men are themselves too respectful, too loving, too circumspect and TOO MODEST to talk about. Because yeah, modesty used to also mean that you didn’t TALK about things, not simply whether or not you could make out the shape of a woman’s butt through her skirt at church. Sadly, that is what modesty-talk has descended to, and worse.

  • oh boy

    No offense meant, Anon, but your last comment about upholding morality in the face of women’s feelings about their femininity makes you sound kind of young or not too experienced about women, which isn’t really your fault, but also makes the conversation hard to carry on, especially given that I am a girl telling you about my side of things, but you don’t seem to be taking on my insights about what girl-life is really like. So I think this is the ending point for me. But I appreciate you talking about this without malice.

  • Courtney

    I’m not saying modesty shouldn’t exist. I’m saying it should be something that women talk about with each other and men are themselves too respectful, too loving, too circumspect and TOO MODEST to talk about. Because yeah, modesty used to also mean that you didn’t TALK about things, not simply whether or not you could make out the shape of a woman’s butt through her skirt at church. Sadly, that is what modesty-talk has descended to, and worse.

    AMEN.

  • Anon

    “So you are saying that you would be as concerned about a woman seeing a man in a Speedo as a man seeing a woman in a bikini?”

    Of course not, because women are focused more on words, touch, and actions, while men are focused more on looks.

    “I would venture to guess that you, personally, have never felt a moment of genuine guilt for some “slip” into immodesty in front of a woman — and not embarrassment even, but guilt? Girls feel this and are told to feel this, routinely, starting from the age of maybe 10 or even earlier. Think about how that would change how you feel about your body.”

    I do feel genuine guilt for things I said to various women in my youth. Women may regret things they have worn, but men just as easily regret things they have said. Despite, what is the point of this objection? Men and women are different. That entails differing relations between them. It’s not a game of men vs women, of who has more burden, etc. Are you saying it’s unfair for women to have to be concerned with physical modesty? Is it fair for men to have to deal with lust? How do you apply fairness in such a situation?

    “Yet it is women who are made to carry most of the moral and ALL of the social burden of male lust. The entire social burden.”

    It’s not a huge burden to wear a one-piece rather than a bikini. You’re polarizing the issue by viewing it as a game of fairness. Women have to be careful with how they dress, while men have to be careful with what they say. Not that big of a deal.

    “But it is a protection because of the already broken gaze of the man, who seemingly CANNOT easily see both an integrated human being and a sexual woman.”

    YES, because all men are born with original sin, just like women!

    “That quote naively contrasts the display of “sexual values” with the revelation of personhood, as if the more sexual a woman appears, the less she is a person.”

    I’d be careful charging JPII with a lack of a respect for the person, since he defined the personalistic norm, among other things.

    “What is gentlemanly about saying to a woman, a human being, “the way you dress makes it easy for me to objectify you?” “I have this problem where I depersonalize you based on what I see of your body parts and how they make me feel — please work on it.”

    It’s not necessarily tied to how “I” feel about it. For example, suppose I have complete self control and would not be tempted from a bikini. This doesn’t change the fact that the women is choosing to forgo more clothing needlessly. It’s not like I’m entirely focused on myself. Why should a woman wear a bikini? Millions of women lived and died before bikinis came on the scene. Given the risk of leading men astray, what possible reason could a moral woman have for wearing the bikini? The only reason is to get the male attention she desires. Thus, it’s not all about whether I can control myself in front of her- it’s whether she can control her desire to receive attention.

    “am a girl telling you about my side of things, but you don’t seem to be taking on my insights about what girl-life is really like.”

    Girl-life or boy-life does not necessarily equal the moral and good life. Would you bend morality to fit girl-life? It’s obviously supposed to go the other way around.

  • Anon

    “I’m not saying modesty shouldn’t exist. I’m saying it should be something that women talk about with each other and men are themselves too respectful, too loving, too circumspect and TOO MODEST to talk about. Because yeah, modesty used to also mean that you didn’t TALK about things, not simply whether or not you could make out the shape of a woman’s butt through her skirt at church. Sadly, that is what modesty-talk has descended to, and worse.”

    The most sexual thing I have said directly is the word “bikini.” Plus, this has little to do with whether objective moral imperatives relating to modesty exist- such rules would exist regardless of how tactfully or even morally we discuss them.

  • Anon

    “Thus, it’s not all about whether I can control myself in front of her- it’s whether she can control her desire to receive attention.”

    Note- many people wear clothing without thinking much about it, which reduces the culpability obviously.

  • Anon

    Likewise, thank you for the discussion.

  • Kate

    “Of course not, because women are focused more on words, touch, and actions, while men are focused more on looks.”

    This is another one of those cliches that get trotted out by modesty-obsessed guys on the Internet. It isn’t true. For centuries women were considered lascivious and dangerous because of the strength of their desires, and then they were ‘rehabilitated’ in the Victorian age by men who thought that true ladies had few if any desires at all. Ones who did show desire were clearly sick, diagnosed with nymphomania, and had their clitoris cut out by way of medical treatment. This is our cultural back story, and the fiction that women aren’t focused on looks and are therefore completely immune to the sight of guys in Speedos can be traced back to here.

    “It’s not a huge burden to wear a one-piece rather than a bikini.”

    And in many cultures going out in a one-piece is a hugely immodest thing to do. Yet you’ve decided that a one-piece is acceptable. What makes your judgment so infallible? Now do you see what people mean about modesty having a personal and cultural element?

    “Given the risk of leading men astray, what possible reason could a moral woman have for wearing the bikini?”

    And once upon a time men were making that exact same argument in favour of women having to wear corsets.

    “Women have to be careful with how they dress, while men have to be careful with what they say. Not that big of a deal.”

    No, people of both sexes need to be gentle, humble, always willing to correct themselves, and always ready to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. This is part of modesty too. Preaching to women you don’t know about their morality and making judgments about anyone’s intentions on the basis of what they’re wearing is brash and arrogant and far from modest. It’s not all about the fabric.

  • Anon

    “And in many cultures going out in a one-piece is a hugely immodest thing to do. Yet you’ve decided that a one-piece is acceptable. What makes your judgment so infallible? Now do you see what people mean about modesty having a personal and cultural element?”

    We are all living in a western cultural matrix. Therefore, modesty is relative to our SHARED western context. No one involved in this discussion is from some South American tribe, so we don’t need to control for that variable.

    “And once upon a time men were making that exact same argument in favour of women having to wear corsets.”

    No, corsets were worn because a thin waist was thought to be more desirable and fashionable, not for the sake of modesty.

    “Preaching to women you don’t know about their morality and making judgments about anyone’s intentions on the basis of what they’re wearing is brash and arrogant and far from modest. It’s not all about the fabric.”

    Let’s recall the course this whole meandering conversation has taken. I said that a woman dressing immodestly was a turn off for me. I then pointed out that I wouldn’t just dismiss a woman outright because of this, because I would discuss the issue with her. Oh Boy objected to this, and said I should never talk to a woman about her dress or lack thereof. I’m not preaching to random women on the internet. I said that immodesty would be a turn off for me, and evidently at least some women don’t like that or think it unjust or something. I never expected it to be controversial at all!

    Plus, the fact that the Church morally requires modesty gives me a massive advantage in this discussion. What I original said was that a lot of the NCGs I have met don’t necessarily consistently follow the Church’s imperatives, and whether you like it or not modesty is one of those commands. I’m honestly surprised this is even controversial in this audience.

    Again, this is a great article:
    http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2012/07/dr-sri-to-inspire-love-a-return-to-modesty/

  • theobromophile

    Jumping in here, as one of those women worthy of Ryan’s denigration (i.e. a reader and commenter on Seraphic’s blog):

    Look, men, there’s a few things YOU don’t get about women. One of them is that by the time we hit adulthood, we’ve had hoards of men who are neither our fathers, our teachers, or our priests lecturing us about how to live our lives. Random women don’t come up to you and start hectoring you to stop doing something that, in another culture, would result in women stoning you to death. In fact, in no culture in the world do women stone men to death for religious infractions. So to you, it’s just gentle correction. To us, it’s oppressive.

    If you want the right to tell me what to do, then marry me. If you are not my husband, priest, father, or boss, then sod off. Want to talk about humility and taking correction? Start with yourself and have the basic humility (and grasp of reality) to understand that you do not have authority over women who are neither your wives or daughters.

    If you want to marry a woman who will heed the advice of strange men whom she barely knows, fine, go right ahead – but don’t come crying to me when you spend half your life disabusing your wife of other men’s commands that end up harming your marriage. (Let me know how it works out for you, that business of marrying a woman who gives every man the privileges that rightly only belong to a husband. [smirk])

    Apropos of nothing, I don’t whine about being tempted by men. I’m in my thirties – more than old enough to keep the company that suits me, without haranguing the rest of the male population. You gents ought to try it sometime.

  • Perinatal Loss Nurse

    I am a bit surprised at how vicious arguments about modesty get among conservatives who might all agree with the general premise of “modesty good / hoochie clothes bad” and not just here…the “should women wear pants” posts on Simcha Fisher’s blog had people chasing each other with pitchforks and torches.

    I’m sad that we become so divided on a topic that (in my head at least) shouldn’t cause all that much difficulty.

  • theobromophile

    Anon, for heaven’s sake.

    Let’s take a survey of the world and of history, shall we? In most cultures, in most times, an immodest women could be legally raped, stoned to death, killed by one’s fathers or brothers, cast out of the community and left to starve, or otherwise mistreated. The mere potential for future immodesty is the justification for female genital mutilation.

    The natural course of human history, unless checked by the voices of strong women, is for “immodest” women to be raped, ostracised, mutilated, or stoned. That is alive and well in the world and even in the West.

    Now, Anon, let me know the last time YOU worried about having your boy bits cut off for sexual immortality, about being stoned to death for not following the Bible or the Catechism, or felt solidarity for men who suffer similar fates. When was the last time you were thankful for not being born into that country, or feared that women would consider trussing you up like a pig, burying you in the sand up to your neck, and pitching stones at your head until your skull cracks and you die?

    [crickets]

    There isn’t a woman on this planet who is unaware that religious men consider modesty to be a Big Deal. That’s not the controversial part; the controversy is over your inane idea that some nice Catholic girl is in need of your correction. Also inane is your notion that you can’t possibly understand why nice Catholics would bristle at the idea of a strange man dictating their morality to them.

  • Anon

    Wow- my desire to find a wife who practices modesty in accordance with JPII’s “Love and Responsibility” has somehow led to a comments about genital mutilation. The internet never ceases to amaze.

  • Perinatal Loss Nurse

    Anon,
    When I was very young & dating, a young man once said to me “I like you, you are a nice girl, but you talk about yourself too much, I want you to know this because it would be sad for you to not know why people might avoid you when you really are nice”. Im sure I dismissed his comment at the time and spent the evening talking about myself. It stuck in my head though and as I matured, I did decide to learn how to become less me-focused and it helped me in the long run.

    I dont think that most of us appreciate most lectures or corrections we get but if handled graciously, they can be helpful. Done properly, you can help young ladies better understand why modesty is beneficial. Done badly, you would (of course) just annoy people. I would consider going forward with the idea of gently mentioning this to NCGs you speak to if you can pull it off in a gently respectful manner.

    TBP says that women get corrected all the time by men who have no right to do so. One might argue that people feel too-free in offering unsolicited advise to single people, but if that is so, it is not just women on the recieving end. My son drives a courtesy shuttle for a car dealership and he said that he gets lectured ALL DAY LONG by people who are convinced that he needs to do “this or that” to make his life better. He would agree with TBP that it is tedious and insulting but he would disagree that only women are subjected to it.

  • Micha Elyi

    Until every Christian young man can swear that he has never so much as peeked at pornography, he doesn’t get to say a word against female immodesty…”
    -OH BOY

    False.

    Female immodesty has been encountered by every Christian young man (except those raised by monks in a monastery who found him as a baby abandoned on the doorstep) long before ever seeing pornography.

    Try again, man-basher.

  • Anon

    @Perinatal loss nurse
    Thanks for the advice. Sometimes I’ll encounter otherwise very attractive practicing Catholics who just seem to have this one issue. To all the women scandalized by what I have said, I never intended to go about chastising random women on the beach. The idea was that if I were to seriously consider dating a woman, I might say something like “You’re really pretty and interesting and I’d like to date you, but there’s this one thing that gives me pause. Could we talk about it?” If she can’t handle that she must be a drama queen and I’ll definitely be running for the hills.

  • Courtney

    The misogyny, not to mention arrogance and privilege, emerging among some of the male commenters here is amazing.

    Man-basher? Really? Maybe she happened to notice that the vast majority of males in our culture begin watching pornography between the ages of 12 and 14. I bet its the fault of all those bikini-clad women out there, *forcing* men to sexually abuse and objectify women and children in a multi-billion dollar industry! Yeah, it must be the fault of all those pathetic attention-hungry women.

    Try again, misogynist.

  • Micha Elyi

    Look, men, there’s a few things YOU don’t get about women. One of them is that by the time we hit adulthood, we’ve had hoards of men who are neither our fathers, our teachers, or our priests lecturing us about how to live our lives.
    -Theobromophile

    Yeah, sure that never happens to men.

    Strange though, if someone is identified as a “scold”, it’s a woman. Why is that if women who are neither the mothers, teachers, or whatever are always silent and never tut-tutting or lecturing boys about how to live their lives?

    Random women don’t come up to you and start hectoring you to stop doing something that, in another culture, would result in women stoning you to death. In fact, in no culture in the world do women stone men to death for religious infractions.

    True. But only because in every culture in the world females can get men to do their dirty work of getting men they disapprove of stoned. Then females such as yourself pretend that your hands are clean. (Females also arrange the stoning of rival females too, FYI. Study sociology sometime and learn.)

    So to you, it’s just gentle correction. To us, it’s oppressive.

    Yeah, sure. That’s why there’s more men in prison – to pick but one counterexample – than females. Men are usually imprisoned for behavior for which females are often excused. Even if a female criminal is convicted, her sentence is typically much lighter. And why is it that so much of female bad behavior isn’t even considered a crime?

    Try again. Next time, use facts.

    Apropos of nothing, I don’t whine about being tempted by men. I’m in my thirties – more than old enough to keep the company that suits me, without haranguing the rest of the male population. You gents ought to try it sometime.

    There you go again, Theobromophile, demonstrating that you’re one of those females who take it for granted that she has the right to santimoniously scold men who are total strangers to her – and posing as a victim the whole while!

    What bugs the likes of you and your kind is not that “men don’t get it” but that – to borrow from Jack Kammer – more and more men aren’t buying it. Your poor pitiful me victimhood shtick is sooo last century and – to quote a woman – “guilt is a rope that wears thin.”

  • oh boy

    Oh Micha Elyi, your “argument” that women get excused for violence that males get imprisoned for is so funny I just choked. Tell me more about how women are to blame for the violence, rape, rage, and selfishness that we are USUALLY reminded is part of the glory of masculinity if only it can be tempered and controlled for manly glory. Women have this and do this too, at the rate that men do, but they just get away with it?? Wooooow. Thank you for your suggestion to “study sociology,” which, by the way, women do in greater numbers than men, and particularly learn from the sociology of patriarchal systems, which tend to create women victims and then blame them for their victimization, as you so cheerfully do above.

    And why is it that you think that a “scold” is used to describe a woman? Could it be because for a very long time, “scolding” has been a male occupation that is seen as correct and parental, of course from a male point of view? Or is it because men don’t bother scolding, they just beat, rape, or kill the people they disagree with? You need to study your sociology, son. Go on, go learn something. Learn some facts.

    I initially started this whole spiel because a seemingly intelligent Catholic guy pointed out that when he gets a little interested in a nice girl at church, he then sees bikini pictures of her on Facebook and becomes “unimpressed.” While saying that I could sort of understand his discomfort, I wanted to point out that immodesty is not something so easily sliced and diced, especially by men, who by nature and experience do not relate to their bodies in the way that women do. Apparently this is unacceptable because some parts of masculinity can also have unpleasant cultural urges, so therefore men should be able to judge women in light of “revealed truth” (read: what one man thinks is too alluring) on how they present their femininity. But just hold right up, if you’re so convinced that men and women are different and things don’t have to be “fair.” Because even the example given for an unChristian tenet of masculinity was “seeing how many chicks you can screw.” So in short, immoral forms of masculinity center around demeaning and objectifying women. But modesty issues relating to femininity ALSO have to do with the objectification and often violent control of women. So it makes sense to you, you think it is just or even likely, that men and women would relate to issues of their gender or sexuality and so on in the same way? When for women it concerns their own objectification, and for men it concerns… the objectification of others?

    It’s for this reason that women being told what to do with their clothes and their bodies is QUALITATIVELY DIFFERENT than anything else we are lectured about, or that men are lectured about. I hate to trot out something so obvious, but since it appears that you need it, call to mind the worst words and slurs you can think of for both genders. Which ones have a sexual or physical connotation? And who is put in danger when they are identified with these slurs? For you personally, if you had a slur hurled at you, which would be the worst you could fear? For most girls I’d say it’s probably “slut” or “fat.” Can you get out of your manbrain for a minute and think about that? Think of the most vulnerable part of your life – especially something that makes you feel shame or inferiority related to your masculinity, and imagine that not only the broader media culture, but fellow Christians, feel that they can throw their personal opinion of this vulnerability in your face, and call it Christlike. But the thought experiment still won’t work, because you don’t feel the pressure to please and earn approval the way that girls are raised to feel it — especially good religious girls.

    It’s not that you personally were explicit about what you consider immodest, Anon, but that in saying that you disapprove of an otherwise nice Catholic girl’s presentation of herself on FB (not even in front of you), you are aligning yourself, however unintentionally, with the cahort of Christian men who stride around loudly scrutinizing women’s bodies for the purpose of moralizing. And often they DO become explicit, needing to detail what they want to see and what they don’t want to see, all on the basis of what either causes them to lust or causes them to feel pleasantly allured. My basic argument is that a good man should feel embarrassed and protective, not angered, not superior, not pulling out chapter and verse of the catechism, when he encounters this kind of behavior.

  • oh boy

    Oh and one more thing — if we can agree that “wanting male attention” is the “sinful” motive at the bottom of a girl’s immodest dress, I would just like you to think for a moment about whether male attempts to show off or otherwise seek attention are also stigmatized by society. Maybe once in a while a priest, in a homily or in the confessional, will suggest that it is self-absorbed or arrogant or insecure to seek attention like this. But compare it to the “literature” on modesty.

    Oh, but women seek attention by betraying their proper sexuality, where men just jump off cliffs or do chest bumps! Yeah, and so the only victim in this situation is the girl or woman who has been convinced that she needs to treat herself this way. Men are not victims of seeing the side of a girl’s boob. Like another lady commenter said, you are living in the dream world of Victorian sexuality if you think that women are not as visually stimulated as men. The fact is, men in bathing suits or shirtless on the basketball court are admired and lusted after the world over. Plus, think of: the male thigh. Here in Germany many men bare their thighs in lederhosen and I, American girl who has never been allowed to see much of this area thanks to a few decades of nothing but baggy knee-long shorts for men, take notice of this, to put it tactfully. But women control it more, like men COULD control it more if they were also socialized to view most of women’s bodies as unstimulating. It’s not like men in African villages get physically aroused by the sight of bare breasts, and modesty standards are also not timelessly cultural — in the past one hundred years, the female ankle has been magically desexualized — and for most sane men, the female in pants is also not a staggeringly tempting sight. This didn’t happen because everybody got together and decided: right, out with modesty, we men have decided that ankles are A-OK. It happened because women started showing ankle and wearing pants, not to stimulate, not in sexual contexts, but just normally. Almost as if the whole purpose of their body was not just to veil it from or reveal it to the male gaze.

    I mean look, I am not saying that girls never dress immodestly or something. I just think immodesty should be de-stigmatized to about the level of brash adolescent male show-offy tendencies. Both behaviors are more about insecurity and need for approval than sexual deviancy. The fact that “girls want male attention” IS so stigmatized reveals that modesty as a cultural concept has historically been more about men wanting to control who (their) women are sexual with, than about protecting the personhood and dignity of women. So I endorse modesty because, in our world, a woman understands her personhood and dignity through avoiding objectification by men, and dressing most of the time in a not-too-sexualized way is the best way to avoid being objectified. But as this whole conversation hopefully shows, women can never COMPLETELY avoid being objectified by society. And men are at the root of that. Which is why I think men shouldn’t talk too much about something that they don’t really intimately understand, which is a response to living in conditions that men themselves have forged. The best way to “combat immodesty” is not to talk about what women should do, but to treat every woman you meet, regardless of dress, with respect, understanding, and sympathy, like a human person. I trust that as a Catholic man you already do this.

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  • Anon

    “My basic argument is that a good man should feel embarrassed and protective, not angered, not superior, not pulling out chapter and verse of the catechism, when he encounters this kind of behavior.”

    But see, you said I should never ever even talk about the issue. If I’m interested in protecting her from exploitation, why couldn’t I bring up the issue?

    The bottom line is this- Catholicism defines immodesty as immoral. The philosophical justifications for this are given in works like “Love and Responsibility,” among others. I am seeking a practicing Catholic lady who actually follows the precepts of the Church. If she is immodest, that is a strike against her. If she ignores the Ash Wednesday fast, that is a strike against her. If she stands during consecration, that is a strike against her. Obviously I would give any woman the benefit of the doubt, and I would talk about the issue before making a final decision whether I could date her or not. However, if she obstinately refuses to follow the Church’s commands on modesty while claiming to be a NCG, then she would be a cafeteria Catholic, which is not attractive.

    Thus, this goes right back to what I said initially- if she is inconsistent insofar as she claims to be a NCG while simultaneously violating Catholic precepts, then there is an inconsistency which is not attractive. Obviously I would cut her some slack, be kind and respectful, and still treat her with the utmost dignity, as with anyone. You don’t need to tell me to do that. If she knowingly persists in sin, however, I am not willing to bend the rules of objective morality to fit how a woman feels about herself.

  • http://notaminx.blogspot.com Trista

    Just a note of encouragement to Ryan, the author – I’m glad your expressed yourself in this post. It brought a lot of discussion, and I think you are on the right path. Thank you for being a faithful Catholic man.

  • Maria

    The length/amount of these comments is mind-boggling. What I can’t believe is that I sat there and read every one. I swear, modesty really is “the Christian Conversation That Will NEVER End” Anyways, I love Auntie Seraphic’s blog. I’ll try not to let Ryan ruin the NCG/NCB thing for me.

  • Elizabeth

    Anon,
    You seem to think making a modest closet is easy as pie. In my early teen years, I had several Catholic young men tell me that long skirts, pants, swimwear, etc. led them to lust. I spent three years struggling with intense scrupulosity as a result. While you find bikinis offensive and a sign of a lax Catholic, my husband sees absolutely no problem with them as long as they are designed to be practical swimwear. There are no Church documents saying wear this, not that. Modesty is much more about relationships, comportment and humility than it is about wardrobe.
    I’m not saying women shouldn’t be conscious of how their clothing affects their brothers in Christ, but you need to know what a burden it is to be hypersensitive about your body. In case it wasn’t enough to be under constant societal scrutiny, now young Catholic men feel like how you dress is a reflection of your worth.
    I hope I didn’t come across too harshly. I appreciate the respectful tone of your comments. I just encourage you to be a little more compassionate in your judgments of the women around you.

  • Anon

    I agree that compassion is important. Also, I’d like to point out that I’m not one of those guys who says that unless your skirt is precisely two inches below your knee you must be a whore. Some people do indeed go overboard about modesty. That’s why I singled out the bikini as an example of obviously immodest clothing. There is no way that someone can claim that a few square inches of cloth can be modest in a coed setting. There’s really no difference between a bikini and underwear. I imagine most NCGs would not be comfortable posting photos of themselves in their underwear on facebook, but there’s really no difference between that and a bikini. Again, obviously human beings are complex and you shouldn’t be harsh or mean, and a lot of time people just don’t think about things. Nevertheless, I do think it is fair to say that posting nearly naked photos of yourself on Facebook should be a concern for a Catholic man seeking a practicing spouse.

  • theobromophile

    My son drives a courtesy shuttle for a car dealership and he said that he gets lectured ALL DAY LONG by people who are convinced that he needs to do “this or that” to make his life better. He would agree with TBP that it is tedious and insulting but he would disagree that only women are subjected to it.

    I don’t think that only women are subjected to it, but I think we are so subjected a lot more frequently than men are (I don’t know how old your son is, but the under-25 crowd gets lectured a lot; grown men, not so much), and the subjects of said lectures are more deeply personal (matrimony, child-bearing, breast-feeding, modesty). Throughout history and in many parts of the world, the consequences for straying from the path have been a total denial of human rights.

  • buckyinky

    Which is why I think men shouldn’t talk too much about something that they don’t really intimately understand, which is a response to living in conditions that men themselves have forged.

    I take this to mean that you intimately understand the male experience, since you’ve talked too much about it?

  • buckyinky

    OH BOY said:

    Which is why I think men shouldn’t talk too much about something that they don’t really intimately understand, which is a response to living in conditions that men themselves have forged.

    I take this to mean that you intimately understand the male experience, since you’ve talked too much about it?

  • oh boy

    Buckyinky, I’m sure that there are things about the male experience that I don’t have intimate experience of. The pressure to be modest and appear exactly the way a given fellow wants you do appear is, however, not a part of the male experience. I did ask for examples of times that men had felt that their bodies and sexuality had been scrutinized and stigmatized in similar ways, and got exactly crickets. You are welcome to fill me in.

    Incidentally, the only time that men are subjected to the “male gaze” is in gay male culture. Let me hear about how comfortable most straight men, but particularly Catholic straight men, are with gay male culture. My dad once told me, as an example of how offensively horny and predatory gay men are, that as a younger man he was once followed around the mall by a gay guy who just watched him and tried to flirt. With all due respect to my dad, my response was – “oh, so you got to see what it’s like to be a girl for one afternoon.”

  • buckyinky

    No, I’m just wondering why you’ve spoken so much about the male experience when you don’t intimately understand it.

  • JRP

    Part of the flaw you recognize, indeed, has to do with ‘nice’.

    Nice is not a Catholic virtue. Kindness, gentleness, sure. Not – never – nice. Nice, if you look at the history of the word, means, in effect, ‘dumb’, and should never been a criterion.

    As someone living in one of the most liberal and least Catholic Dioceses (despite having a large population of self-identifying Catholics), I can absolutely assure you that there is a dearth of authentic Catholic women available after a certain age.

    As a man, if your standards happen to include no sex before marriage, pro-life, pro-NFP, not functionally protestant, and at least a reasonable level of objective fittingness (for me, this happens to mean over 30 and not short), the numbers quickly get down into the single digits, even if you’re willing to go 100 miles in any direction.

    If you include getting through a first date where there are no obvious personality disorders (and I’m really not that critical, but some things I’ve seen just scream), the number becomes smaller. A couple of dates and you might realize some of them you might just not like, or they might not like you – both of which are absolutely fine – but the number of eligible women feels like ‘zero’ most of the time, until someone new shows up, as we’re starting from a shockingly tiny pool. It is quite exhausting.

    Honestly, as far as I tell by objective criterion on dating sites, I’ve dated all the available women that would make a near miss. I’ve traveled to several different states for a date.

    And, yes, these days, unless you’re lucky, CatholicMatch is probably the best anybody who is in this situation can, in fact, do.

  • Maria Neva

    Anon – I just want to say that as a woman I agree with what you have said as being valid points for consideration and that women should, in humility, truly reflect on what you say and see if it does, or should, affect how they live. Others here have had some good points as well, but most of their repartee has been both overreactive and overly personalized (as well as rather snippy…) I sympathize with these offended women, but seriously, ladies, if you’re not going to be ladylike then don’t bother wishing for gentlemen.

    I would like to think that I am a woman confident enough in my womanhood to be able to humbly entertain commentary even from men I do not know, and even perhaps mature in my behavior because of it – particularly if they are commenting on how what I do is affecting them or others, something that is at the very heart of what it means to be a woman according to the Theology of the Body’s understanding of woman as being the integrator, the connector, with greatness of heart for others. I have in the past taken some very good advice from men, and have even respected them more for it in this age of wishy-washy “nice” guys – they cared enough to speak with me of matters of importance, and of how I affect them or others. Now THAT is being GCM.

    Oh, and Chalcedon is all well and good, but I prefer the first Council of Ephesus myself ;)

  • buckyinky

    Good thoughts, Maria Neva. If you implicate me as among the “snippy,” point taken.

  • Alyssa

    JRP
    If you are called to married life, then God will bring you to an amazing Catholic woman.
    All in God’s time. :)

  • Kat

    As a NCG, I think Ryan brings up some very good points. He definitely gave me food for thought.

  • http://@Kryckl Krystle

    Wow. Thank you for posting this. It should be spread around every Catholic campus. Especially the bubble that is Christendom College. I especially liked how you pointed out that a man is going to be “Not You.” So many girls get caught up in the idea that a nice catholic boy is going to come to the event, pray the rosary and spend the rest of his (now her) life doting on her and being feminine. NOT going to happen. And if it does, it’s life in a delusion. There are a lot of NCG dating NCB and are missing out. It’s the man that makes it worth it.

  • Ann

    Sorry, but as someone said early on, when a man marries, his wife and children IS his main vocation. That is how God has called him to serve Him. Everything else, his job, his parish and charitable ministries, his hobbies, his parents and extended family, everything takes a back seat to his vocation as husband and father. If he felt called to put any of these other things first he would not be called to marriage. My husband feels called to be a deacon. Our diocese makes sure the wife is on board and signs off on it. The diocese will not ordain him if the wife is against it because SHE comes before his vocation to the permanent diaconate. The husband serves God and the Church by serving his wife and helping her bring up godly children. The same with women: Her husband IS her vocation. Her other activities, even religious ones, take a back seat. I married my husband because he was as devout as I but if I had any inking whatsoever that he would start putting church work or his job ahead of his family I wouldn’t have married him. Thankfully, he does see the kids and I as his vocation just as I see him and the kids as my vocation.