“it’s really weird that I spent so much time trying to make sure old men didn’t want to have sex with me.”
That statement is as frank of an indictment that I can employ for the dangerous dynamic at play in modesty cults. At the heart, it is about powerful men blaming their moral failures on women who are groomed to be dependent upon them for spiritual guidance.
The emphasis on modesty was just one facet of the broader trend of spiritualized misogyny at IPC. In one sermon, Terry Johnson, [the church’s senior pastor], remarked that while incarcerated men display depravity by their actions, female convicts represent the ultimate depravity because they have strayed so far from their God-ordained nature of gentleness.
Ultimately, modesty culture is not about decency or purity or even sex--it is about power. When men, claiming the authority of God, exploit their positions of power to heap shame on young girls for their identity, sexuality, and femininity, they are complicit in spiritual abuse. The behavior is an assault on women from a more nuanced angle. It is ideological abuse which strips women of their humanity. Though these cults may outwardly denounce the sexualization of women in popular culture, they are complicit in that system. They, too, reduce women to their body parts and sexualize even the most innocent efforts of women to look beautiful."