My body was condemned as sexual before I even knew what sex was

I distinctly remember the first time I ever felt ashamed of my body. I was in sixth grade on a church field trip for a weekend in Orlando. All of the girls had been instructed to only bring a one-piece swimsuit; any two-piece would not be tolerated. One night, the group decided to go swimming in the pool at the hotel. I was excited, to say the least, to be on this trip. Sixth grade was not the easiest year for me, and I was looking forward to making friends and having fun. Some girls and I quickly got dressed and headed down to the pool.

I was getting ready to get in when I was stopped by a chaperone. They told me that my one-piece swimsuit wasn’t appropriate, and that I would have to put a shirt on if I wanted to go swimming. As an eleven year old, being inappropriate was the worst thing I could be. At the time, I didn’t even understand why. I thought that I was breaking the rules (the second worst thing I could do as an eleven year old). I sat on a pool chair very confused and very hurt. What did I do wrong? My mother had approved of everything I packed; why was what I was wearing so bad? Before long one of my friends had noticed I was sitting alone and invited me to swim. I decided to analyze what I did wrong later and go swimming in my t-shirt.

I went on many church-organized trips after that. On every fieldtrip involving water, it was expected of me and the other girls to “cover up for the boys.” I have been taught to expect my body to be sexualized. I have been taught that the only way for my body to not be sexualized is to cover up. So when guys make sexual references towards me, it is only normal. It was because of my body or what I was wearing. God made woman as a helper to man — she is an icon of strength, not one of sex.

 

There is a reality outside of the church that we must prepare our young men and women for. The church must realize that lust extends beyond a weekend fieldtrip and that to remedy the problem of lust and over-sexualization, a must bigger issue is fixed. Are boys magically in control of themselves outside of a church setting? Don’t you see that having girls cover up on a fieldtrip won’t stop boys from lusting at the beach? Is the girl at the beach any less of a person than the girl on the fieldtrip?

One might argue: Well, it is easier to get rid of the problem. If the girls cover up, the boys won’t lust. But don’t you realize what that argument leads to? Don’t you realize that says, “Let’s cover up the problem instead of remedying it”? This way of thinking teaches that the girls are the problem when they are not. Do you know where the problem lies? It lies in porn. It lies in “boys will be boys.” Let’s teach our sons to be men instead of teaching our women to be ashamed.

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

I do not want this to be interpreted as, “she just wants to wear whatever she wants.” No. I want our young men and women to walk in the liberty that God grants us. Let’s make our standard God’s standard instead of lowering the bar. Let’s stretch ourselves instead of settling for what is simple and easy. I have seen Christian articles written by women (who have no intentions of being provocative) that claim they have stopped wearing certain outfits because they know what it does to men. These are not men. These are children. It’s time to step it up, church. We want to raise good husbands and good fathers. We want to raise strong wives and independent mothers. Stop playing the blame game.

All of this to say, just as boys should be respectful no matter what the outfit, I believe girls should be respectful as well. Do not dress to tempt. Dress for yourself, not for attention. Is it that hard of a concept to grasp? To respect others, to love others? We must raise the standards for our youth — I would argue that we would reach it.

Kyra Nguyen

Kyra is an English major at Regent. She plans to graduate in 2018 and hails from Coconut Creek, Florida.