The yeast of provocative adornment in the dough of womanhood
I have countlessly heard from my jewel friends (lady friends) the phrase “I wish I was a guy” or “you guys don’t have complicated lives as we do”. In most cases, I react with a sheepish giggle and say something like “eh enyewe madem mnakuwaga na issues” (yeah, honestly you ladies have issues). You probably walk away feeling like you have the most complicated lives, right?
Today I want to challenge that. I just have one question for you Miss/Mrs.: are you sure? Are you sure our closet lives are not ‘as complicated’ as they appear to be? You probably have no idea of how the world looks like through a man’s eyes. You only need to put on our shoes for a week in the modern world, try-on our world-view of things and all you will ask is “How on earth do you survive!”
I do not mean to undermine the complexity of womanhood. Womanhood must be challenging too- but I am not one so I lack the credentials to discuss that past here. There are things however that we share between our two extreme gender orientations and there are things we no doubt have nothing in common: one of which is how we are morphologically wired to react to different stimuli.
Talking of morphology and stimuli, I will zero in on dressing- this is for the ladies. In fact, will spend some time here. That is what this article is all about, in the first place. This is also about why how you present yourselves is our (men) business too in every way. I will bring us to the awareness of the reality of lust and how it has got quite much to do with you, ladies. Jewels, this is all about what your adornment adds up to and the impact on the men around you. In reference to the words of Christ; “A little yeast leavens the whole bread…” we will look into this ‘yeast’ that has undermined womanhood, provoked masculine lust, stained the body of Christ and caused the blaspheming of God’s name among those who have not known Him yet. This will directly address the truths, the half-truths and the outright lies around provocative adornment, in light of God’s word.
Provocative adornment-through a man’s lenses
Before I go any further than this, I want to clarify any inference that might have been wrongly made from what I have said above. I don’t mean to say that jewel adornment (by now you must be familiar with ‘jewel’ to mean ‘ladies’) is the one and sole reason behind masculine lust or that should all jewels dress decently lust would be a foregone thing. Lust would still exist, as a matter of fact! Furthermore, 2 Samuel 13 gives the story of King David’s son Amnon and his inflamed lust for his own half-sister, Tamar- not because Tamar dressed provocatively, but among others, because she was beautiful! In fact, the scriptures say she used to dress in “ornate robes that the virgin daughters of the king wore…” (2 Sam 13:18). This article just seeks to appreciate the big part played by provocative dressing in light of this masculine weakness.
This does not seek to over-emphasize lust as a ‘men’s issue’ alone. Ladies can lust too; as a matter of fact. Again, I am not a lady so I will not go any deeper into lust from a lady’s viewpoint, but will delve into the other side that I am quite familiar with.
This then brings the whole discussion about sexual purity. You see, chastity or sexual purity does not only mean abstinence from sexual intercourse that is, the act itself, until marriage. It goes beyond the act and into the purity of our thoughts, speech, emotions etcetera. Chastity simply means an all-out war against anything that offsets God’s purity of the body in thought, utterances, feelings and anything else and yes, adornment is part of that too. This whole concept I believe, was the reason for Christ’s equation of looking at a woman lustfully to the actual physical act of bedding her.
You see, my dear sisters, those tights, skirts, tops, stockings, dresses, trousers and everything else you adorn yourselves in do more than just cover your bodies. They serve the primary role of protecting us too, men from sights that pollute our whole minds with diabolic images, thoughts notwithstanding. As much as we try not to, it becomes a constant battle and struggle that ensures that some of us spend more time in our war rooms (prayer rooms) repenting and pleading the blood of Jesus to sanitize our thoughts over and over again. Once we step out of the prayer room, the temptations start all over again. What a life!
I was sharing with one of my room mates and some friends, an encounter I had with another friend of mine, Mike (not his real name, let’s just call him Mike). We were both at the JKUAT Student Centre, branded ‘Studeez’ and I had gone to get myself something to eat. A lady walks in too, Mike walks in shortly afterwards. The lady was dressed in a blue dress: I understand those kind of dresses go by the name ‘toutou dress’ (pronounced as ‘tutu dress’): these dresses that are generally above the knee in terms of length but have kind of a translucent net that goes all the way down, you get me? Great. So Mike and I left the shop chatting then he says, “wah! huyo dame ako na tattoo ya maua kwa paja” (whoa! That lady has the tattoo of a flower on her thighs).
I was surprised. I had not picked so much detail myself, maybe because she walked in after me. Mike goes ahead and laughs saying, “hizi neti hazifunikagi kitu. Macho hupenya straight!” (These nets don’t hide a thing. Our eyes go through them effortlessly).
I have a born again classmate who told me he sometimes wishes our course was offered online so that he would not have to put up with some disturbing views along the corridors around school. He went ahead and told me someday back, “Hizi macho zangu zinaezanipeleka hell, saa zingine najiskia tu kuzing’oa ndio niende heaven lakini nashangaa nitapata aje degree bila hizi macho” (These eyes of mine can take me to hell. Sometimes I feel like pulling them out of their sockets to primarily get to heaven but I still need them to get my degree). He went ahead and joked, saying, “as much as wasee blind hawawezi ona, hio stuff imewasave struggles kibao zenye sisi tunasumbuana nazo” (as much as blind people cannot see, the situation saves them a lot of struggles that constantly grounds us who have sight).
The first hint of godlessness in womanhood
This is no laughing matter. This is a real struggle. It’s so hard to walk around campus and town with your head up and eyes open for anything because then you might just sin against yourself and God. I personally don’t like taking the stairs after a lady with a short dress because then, whatever comes after is abominable before God- even the sight of it alone. Lust is real, my sisters. Lust is so real. Yes, your father can lust after you, so stop playing innocent around him in provocative clothes. That’s how some fathers end up sexually assaulting their own daughters. Your brother too can have sexual fantasies with you, so a blood relationship is no ground to get lax at the extent of the dignity and integrity of whatever you put on. Actually, you can cause the stumbling of a hundred brothers in single day without even knowing them or saying a word to them! In that case, Matthew 18:6 is the last scripture you would like to come across because it foreshadows your eternal condemnation, unless you repent, receive Christ if you had not and live right henceforth.
The godlessness and lawlessness associated with provocative adornment is so serious that it literally undermines the body of Christ, for ladies in church. This whole issue is demonic; we might not get the sense of this because we have become quite ‘used to’ this. Only until you sieve this whole issue through the grid of scripture- then you will understand how demonic the whole idea is. In light of 1 John 3:4b, Apostle John says: “…sin is lawlessness.” to mean sin is the transgression of God’s law. I also understand the phrase to mean that anything not confined within the limits of God’s laws is potentially sinful- is actually sinful. The way you dress is sinful if not curtailed by God’s laws.
Proverbs 7 gives the story of a “young man without sense” (7:7) caught in the snare of lust by a woman “with the attire of a harlot” (7:10). She seduces him and “All at once he follows her, as an ox to the slaughter…” (7:22). The story goes ahead: “till an arrow pierces its entrails; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life” (7:23). I recommend that you read the whole thing yourself (Proverbs 7) – it is a poetic masterpiece! Truthfully, that is the reality of lust and provocative adornment. You see, the way you dress is virtually everything. It tells me about you without your own interference or explanation.
Gen 38:1 onwards gives the story of Judah and his daughter in law, Tamar. God had killed two of her husbands before and she needed to conceive. She decided to literally “…play the harlot…” (Verse 24- of KJV)- she changed her dressing to be more appealing: “she put off her widow’s garments, and put on a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim…” (38:14). Verse 15 says “When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot…” and he sure lay with her…and the sad story continues. Ladies, looks and adornment add up to more than you think. You only need to change how you dress to look like a completely different person, as Tamar did. Maybe the reason behind people addressing you the way they do is because of how you present yourself to them.
I know it’s ‘kawaida’ to adorn yourselves in short dresses around campus and town, to show some breast skin here, some thighs there but mind you, you will give an account to God on why you were so careless with yourself and His very temple, your body. God is just and all sin shall surely be punished. Remember His word in 1 Cor 6:18-20: “…you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.”
The exhortation “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” (Philippians 2:12) then becomes brutally literal to us men, knowing that God will not ‘understand’ you had provoked us; and we just had to take a glance, then maybe take a good look, then gaze, then admire and lust. God will not ‘understand’ that, and sympathize with us saying “Hee enyewe nyinyi wanaume ilikuwa hard kustand, so nitakanyagia hio sin ya lust” (Truly in the times you lived, it was quite had to remain chaste so I will overlook your sin of lust). No! He will punish us too because He expects us, men, no matter how bad society will get, to master the sin of lust and every other sin! So we cannot be silent when apparently, getting to heaven becomes harder and harder day after day!
“But I am comfortable in this dress, I don’t know why people have a problem with it,” is a defense phrase that has always come in handy. The point is, don’t dress to impress people, someone might always have something to say! However, that dress may be long enough for you, the trouser just tight enough for you, the top just short enough for you, the tight just tight enough for you. However, understand this clearly: that the purity of your motive will never cancel the effect of your dressing. What you choose to put on has to pass many more tests and sieves than just the ‘I like this dress/top’ sieve and the ‘this works for me’ sieve.
So you will ask me, what is decent to put on and what is not? Where is the thin line between decent and indecent?
Well, I worked out my whole lot and thought of all scriptures I knew, searched on Google concerning the same. I am proud to present you an answer- I don’t know! I have tirelessly tried to define ‘decent’ but all I come up with is a long paragraph full of grammar and that contradicts itself, or any time I tried to define it, the whole thing fell outside scripture. I understand the concept but verbalizing it is so hard. I actually think this whole concept is inarticulate in nature; that is, you cannot put down words that will accurately bring out a holistic definition. However, alluding to 1st Peter 3:1-4, “…your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight…” Need I say more?
I also found useful the input from the words of King Lemuel in the whole of Proverbs 31, words taught to him by his mother. Alluding to verse 23-31:
“Her husband is known in the gates,
when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
she delivers girdles to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed,
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the courts.
A little more care into what you clothe yourselves in, jewels, can mean preventing the trip of a brother. Allow me to recommend several parameters that you can use: two of them carnal; for those who do not have any means to crit their clothing. However, the satisfaction of these will not necessarily guarantee that he clothing is appropriate.
- The ‘abudu’ Posture-This might sound crazy but is actually not. It applies mainly for tops. ‘Abudu’ is Swahili meaning ‘worship’. When I was young, I watched my mum take care of my then adolescent sisters in high school and university. She would buy a top and ask my sister to try it. If she liked it, she would of course say “imenitosha vizuri, nimependa” (it fits me well, I’ve loved it). Mum would then tell her “ebu ‘abudu’ nione” (try ‘worshipping’ and let me see). By this she meant that my sister should lift both hands high up as if worshipping to see if it would show any skin around the waist, stomach, back or the navel. If it did, bad news; it was seized! Ladies, you too should try this. A brother might be deeply worshiping in church in the ‘holy of holies’ then you lift up your hands and at the sight of some skin, he finds himself in the shallow ‘outer courts’. Skin obstructs us more than you think.
- Yes, the mirror! – Sometimes I am tempted to think that some ladies who dress provocatively do not have mirrors because it becomes so sad, so unkind and so inconsiderate to leave your house knowing pretty well that your adornment is inappropriate. In this case, a mirror would be the best gift to give a sister who has none. This will be a polite way of saying, “Henceforth, before you leave your room make sure you are not only comfortable with the way you fit in your clothes, but also okay with how you look in them.” Ladies, stop trusting compliments from your friends! Stop exalting compliments and other people’s interpretation of right and descent, above principal and conscience. Be your own faultfinder. No one can find faults about you better than yourself- when you decide to. You are your greatest critic.
Come on, Stand in front of that mirror. Give that top a good look. It’s transparent or translucent, right? You remember our friend Mike? He will definitely see through that net or the translucency of the top or the dress, so remove it! I might see through it too, so yes, dispose it. Christ can come any minute, maybe shortly after I’ve given you a lustful look, then I miss heaven and spend eternity gnashing my teeth! Lift up both hands. Is the top okay? No waist or stomach skin showing? Good. Now, do a half turn and look at your backside. Everything okay? Too tight? Too short? Now, bend over towards the mirror. You will definitely bend today to show a brother some Calculus II, true? Good, let’s take care of that brother, probably a young believer. Showing too much breast skin? Get rid of that top! Then pull a seat. Seat on it. Put the mirror right in front of you. You like sitting at the front in class, right? Let’s make sure that it’s safe for that lecturer to stand right in front of you, and concentrate on his job. How much skin does that skirt show when you are seated?
The point is, try to find faults in your own wardrobe by asking yourself some obvious yet critical questions.
- The God Factor-This sums up everything. A right and ever growing relationship with God ensures everything else falls into place. The truth and downside about provocative adornment is that it somewhat tells of how much you respect yourself, you respect your male friends and above all, how much you honor God with your body. The other two methods above are carnal. This is not. A relationship with God ensures that you understand the infinite worth of all men around you and you will not tempt them with how you adorn yourself. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
- Our fault too, men- A little man talk here. Let’s not play the victims here! Our flattering compliments to inappropriately dressed ladies only but motivates them to show more skin and put on a tighter one or a more translucent one next time. We are the mantle bearers and have completely lost focus on this. So far, our silence has been taken for acceptance so it’s a high time that we say exactly what we mean and correct the perception that the more provocative, the more beautiful. After all, a big majority of ladies dress so, to feed our big appetite for lust. They do it for us. They are supplying it only because there is demand for it- it is doing so well in the masculine market only because the men readily buy it. The paradox is that they prepare this delicious soup for us, but full of deadly poison. Let’s tell them that there is nothing pretty or cute about provocative dressing and that in any case, it is disgusting in its very nature and it is sin against self, brethren and God Himself. Let the men wake from their slumber, man up and play their part in shaping society towards godliness.
I rest my case.
Written by Ebenezer Elisha
Year 3, Construction Management