Teaching Beauty Over Sexy to Our Daughters

My family and I just spent 5 days at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was my first visit to the islands. It is an absolutely beautiful area. My husband and I are not big on the most popular beaches near us such as Virginia Beach, Myrtle, or Hilton Head. We don’t like crowds. The nice thing about the OBX is there are miles and miles of beach, which helps to minimize crowds and make for a peaceful vacation. While we were there my daughter and I perused a couple of the beach stores. She wanted a souvenir and needed some new sunglasses since she had left hers at home by accident. While we were in one of the stores, my daughter found a Frozen bathing suit that she really liked, a two piece.

In my early Twenties, I gave into the predominant culture that says women need to show off their bodies. This was further driven by the fact that I was in the military and in peak physical condition. I worked out 6 days a week and while I do the same thing now, vanity is always a struggle that must be fought against. I dressed modestly, but smartly back then. I never had any desire to wear short skirts lest I be stuck pulling them down all day and I also never had any interest in tops that showed a lot of cleavage. I am outdoorsy, so I had a more Eddie Bauer or L.L. Bean look to me than anything else. I still do. That is my Montana upbringing influencing my style choices.

When it came to going to the beach with my friends, I ended up choosing a bikini with short board shorts. It was what everyone else had bought on our shopping trip and I decided to join in. In reality, I felt self-conscious and realized any male attention I was drawing was not the kind I was ultimately looking for. I remember quite clearly trying to hide in the waves as much as possible on the crowded Ocean City, MD beach. Plus, nobody mentions that string bikini tops get knocked off by the waves, so that creates it’s own battle and embarrassment.

Flash forward 15 years and I now see why I felt so uncomfortable. Women are beautiful creations of God. Paintings, sculpture, and all mediums of art have portrayed the wonder of the female form. There is something good, mysterious, and alluring about the female sex. The problem arises when we distort that beauty and turn it into lust. The culture preaches lust and sexy over beauty. The skirts these days stop just below the butt and the tops leave very little to the imagination. Prom dresses look more like swimming suits than gowns. All of this tells our daughters that sex is the only way to get a man. It also doesn’t allow them to be comfortable in their clothes or their own skin. Watch teenage girls these days. They spend a lot of time re-adjusting their clothes because they feel self-conscious with so much skin showing.

Men are visual creatures. There is nothing wrong with admitting this fact. Ask any man and he will admit this truth. Men are drawn to the female sex because God made us as their helpmate and for the propagation of the species. We are meant ‘to go forth and multiply.’ This call has of course been sterilized, no pun, by the contraceptive mentality of Western culture. This is part of the reason women have been reduced to an object and told that being sexy is a requirement. We have not been freed by post-modernism. Instead we have been enslaved and reduced to the sex object we supposedly were fighting to avoid.

A woman should desire to be beautiful, body and soul, to a man; not an object of lust. Sexual desire is a healthy and even holy aspect of marriage. Sexuality is a gift from God and in no way should it be viewed with derision. Any thoughts that sex is dirty or wrong comes from Puritanical views of human sexuality that are diametrically opposed to the Catholic worldview. Sex is holy, period.

We need to teach our daughters that modesty is beautiful. If they want a man to see them as a person, then they cannot dress in a manner that is meant to incite lust. That is hardly just. Women cannot claim that men should learn to control themselves when we are intentionally trying to insight desire in men who are not our husband. We have an obligation to protect our brothers in Christ and to not be a near occasion of sin for them, but it is more than that. We should be respecting ourselves as unique creations from God who are meant to complement men. We are shrouded in mystery because of our ability to be co-creators with God. A woman can be beautiful in a bathing suit that is meant to complement the features of a woman, rather than show as much as legally possible. A knee length dress shows off the natural curves of a woman more than the shortest skirts. I tend to hold to the rule if I can’t genuflect in it then I am not wearing it.

I can’t explain all of this to my 5 year old right now. She doesn’t understand why I told her we don’t buy two piece bathing suits, except a tankini that covers as a one piece. We will have these discussions as she matures into a young woman, and often. I plan to tell my daughter that modesty reveals her dignity and beauty to men. I am not saying frumpy. I am saying modest. She can save sexy for her future husband. There will be plenty of time for that when marriage comes, if that is the vocation God calls her to in adulthood.

It is time to teach our daughters that they are beautiful gifts from God and that is how men should view them. We need to stop being a part of the problem and treat our brothers in Christ with the charity and respect they deserve. We’ve bought into the lies of our culture. Let’s abandon those lies for the beauty of our Catholic faith and the true dignity of men and women.

The Dangers of Modern Fiction and A Desire to Write

A desire to write is absolutely pushing itself upon me these days.  In fact, writing is constantly in my thoughts like when a new romance is started. I can’t explain it.  It is hard to contain and hard to balance.  I am the mother of a toddler, a wife, and about to become a postulant in the Order of Preacher (Lay Dominican).  I have a very full plate with the two vocations God has given me, does he really want me to pursue writing?

 
First, I am trying to make sure that my desire for writing comes from wanting to glorify and share Jesus Christ, and not my own pride.  This is an internal struggle, to be sure.  Second, I want my writing to improve the world, not drag it down even further.  Third, I think there is a dearth of good books for women and teenage girls that demonstrate authentic love.  Fourth, In any writing that I would do, I want my daughter to be able to read it some day without pause.
 
I am deeply concerned by the books that seem to be bestsellers.  It has always been this way. Trash sells.  Sex sells.  We just happen to live in a culture that thinks that sex is love. I am  increasingly more worried about how society’s changes in its understanding of love are affecting our daughters. Now my daughter is only two, but many women of my generation have teenagers and the majority of women in my generation are eating up these same books I am talking about.
 
Now I am not talking about Harry Potter or Twilight.  I have read both series and found them immensely entertaining.  I am not big on vampires so Twilight is a series I read once because my youngest sister was such a fan.  What I do like about the series, is that the author demonstrated chastity.  She also showed young women how much they long for a man who is devoted to them and is chaste.  I think this is a great message for young men too, even though, the audience for these books was predominantly female.
 
I like Harry Potter because it demonstrates sacrificial love: the greatest kind of love.  It is the love demonstrated on the Cross.  I will not pretend that Harry Potter is Christian Fiction, it is not.  However, it does not escape the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of Western culture.  Our understanding of love has been formed by the God-Man who sacrificed for us.  No matter how much we try to drown this out, it is still in our very bones.
 
The trend that disturbs me most is how an understanding of love and romance is shifting.  Romance novels have largely been soft pornography for women.  Yep, sorry ladies, graphic sex in print is still pornography.  I have read a few of these books in my younger days.  They are entertaining in a vapid sort of way and give women a chance to form men in their own image.  However, they are usually shallow and continue to notion that all you need is romance and passion.  They do not demonstrate sacrifice and total self-giving.
 
The new “romance” books, if you can even call them that, scare me.  Yes, I am looking at you 50 Shades of Grey.  I have not read it, because I knew immediately that it is pornography.  It was all over the Catholic blogosphere, including some Catholic moms who were supporting it.  Very concerning and if I was ever in a conversation with any of them, I would suggest a meeting with their priest, so they could clear up their misunderstanding of what is pornographic.
 
That aside.  What concerns me, is the level of violence being leveled against women and their blind acceptance of it.  Since when is S&M love?  Since when is it not repugnant not just morally, but also to the very idea of romantic love?  With the increase in Internet pornography violent crimes against women are soaring.  Boyfriends are demanding pornographic sex and women willingly do it because they think they should do it out of love.  Ladies, NO!
 
First, any man who loves you, will wait for you until your wedding night.  Second, no man should be looking at pornography.  Third, no man should demand illicit sex acts from you.  A man who truly loves, respects, and has given himself to you, understands the sacred and holy aspect of the marital act.  The very act that renews the marriage covenant each time the two are brought together.  A man who loves you wants what is best for YOU.
 
So where are the books these days the describe authentic love?  Not just romance novels, books about friendship, service, parenthood, and yes, romantic love?  Why are we not concerned that S&M is a bestseller and about to become a movie?  Our society is normalizing illicit sex and continues to objectify women, yet, we open our wallets (among other things) to pay for this objectification.
 
Mothers, check what your daughters are reading.  Teenagers are reading books like 50 Shades.  They will hide it from you.  Do you want your teenage daughter to think that S&M is a normal type of sexual expression?  Do you want her to learn sexual mores from our culture or from Christ and His Church?  Talk about this with your daughters.  Talk about pornography with your sons.  If you don’t, our culture will do it for you.
 
So while I will not be reading any pornography, I have decided to start reading some of the popular novels of our day, especially those geared towards young women.  I want to pinpoint what is lacking and by God’s grace, write something that truly demonstrates His love.  Not sentimentality.  No, authentic love.  It may be allegory.  It may be daily life.  It might be romance.  I don’t know where God is taking me on this journey.  For now, I will get a hot drink, snuggle up under a blanket and tuck into a lot of fiction this year.
 
P.S. I just finished reading Richard Paul Evans’ A Winter Dream.  I read it as a recommendation from a friend.  I read it this morning in about 3 hours.  I really enjoyed it.