It’s interesting I immediately equate this topic to women. The idea of a “common thread”, at least in the context of this project, implies it is universal to most, if not all, people. However, when it comes to sexual modesty the consideration men might display this characteristic as often as women simply did not occur to me. Perhaps I’ve watched too many sporting events where men have absolutely no hesitation painting the logo of their favorite team on their fat bellies and jiggling it for the world to see. I understand this particular behavior is not, in the any sense of the word, sexual. But it does require shedding clothes in an attempt to draw attention. Sexually modest people don’t do that. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m sure men experience sexual modesty too, but not publicly. I assume it shows itself when they finally shut their exploit-bragging pie holes and get behind closed doors. Then modesty raises its ugly head (please excuse the inadvertent and somewhat disgusting analogy) and all bravado is dropped (sorry again). This may seem harsh – and not fair to the many fine men who have advanced beyond the Neanderthal stage – but it’s pretty clear a lot of guys have earned it. So we’re going to stick to female sexual modesty which, like most female perspectives, is far more interesting. (If it makes you happy substitute “male” for “female” from this point forward. No one’s stopping you.)
The most obvious way women communicate sexual modesty is through fashion. Since fashion is geared towards attracting attention (sexual or not) what a woman wears can be very revealing (again, oops). Yet it’s really not about the amount of clothing worn, although that can be a signal. (And let’s face it. There is a reason why in some cultures you can only see a woman’s eyes while she’s in public. Some may cite religion, some may cite social custom. I cite repression masquerading as modesty. But hey, maybe that’s just me.) It’s also about how clothing accentuates a woman’s body. Sure, wearing a burlap sack sounds like an admittedly farfetched fashion alternative for the extremely sexually modest woman. But even that can be deceiving. A skilled tailor can gather the burlap here, pinch it there, insert a few strategically placed slits, and dye that sucker scarlet. Suddenly what was once proclaimed “I don’t know what you’re thinking about, but don’t think it about me” has transformed from feed sack to heart attack. Especially in Nebraska.
While clothing can provide clues, sexual modesty is often demonstrated far more clearly through gestures and behavior. We’ve all seen this. Let’s illustrate with a little quiz and see if you can identify the least sexually modest woman in the following scenario. (Again, remember the reason we’re talking about women is because I apparently have unshakeable, but only mildly substantiated beliefs about this subject when it comes to men.)
You’re sitting in a cocktail lounge enjoying a quiet drink. Of the following who would you assume is the least sexually modest woman? A woman who…
(a) sits in the corner, minds her own business, doesn’t say a word and never touches her hair
(b) smiles at you from across the room while twirling a strand of hair (hers) around her finger
(c) plops on your lap uninvited, bites your earlobe, then flings her hair about your face like those giant scrubby strips in a car wash
If you guessed (b) or (c), sorry. The correct answer is (a). Confused? Doesn’t seem right? Never forget human behavior is complex, my friend, and until you learn to read it like a champion poker player reads eyes, you’ll misjudge. In this case (a) is correct for a very simple reason, a reason that’s been drilled into your head forever. When it comes to unexpected behavior, it’s always the quiet ones.
Interestingly, signs of sexual modesty become easier to identify when the behaviors aren’t as extreme. For the most part (excluding those shifty quiet types) sexually modest women don’t engage in coquettish behavior. The sexual modest don’t bat their eyelashes or play with their hair. They don’t laugh too robustly at stupid and insipid observations. They don’t dance alone. When they do dance, it’s always with a measure of control. And it’s very rare you’ll find a sexually modest woman using her belly button for jello shots.
Life being the contradictory ball of confusion it is, we shouldn’t find it surprising what we perceive as sexual modesty will often have the opposite effect than intended. The more sexually modest someone appears, the more desirable they become. It could be a result of their strong sense of self, a confident understanding of who they are. It could spark the old hunter-gatherer instinct – the more difficult the hunt, the more rewarding the payoff. Or maybe it’s because women are simply smarter when it comes to these things. If you want to get a man’s attention, confuse him. Sexual modesty can easily do that. Call it a form of reverse psychology if you like. Whatever it is, it certainly works. It also explains why we men paint our bodies like a drunken Picasso, howl our primal screams and fearlessly rip our shirts off in front of a nationally televised audience. It really has nothing to do with modesty, sexual or otherwise. But it’s uncomplicated and feels oh so good. Or so I’ve been told.
Learn more about The Common Threads Project.