Thursday, November 13, 2008

Protection for Our Hearts

** This review was originally posted on a now hidden blog on January 16, 2006 **

A RETURN TO MODESTY: Discovering the Lost Virtue

It's easier to propose this book as a married woman and as a devout Catholic than if I'd suggested it ten years ago (unlikely as that would be since it was published in 1999), but I hope you don't discount it for that reason. This book is an insightful look at society today and how its standards for sex education and sex itself damage the very souls of women and girls. Essentially, she says that men and women are different, biologically and psychologically, in the way we view sex and its meanings. Modesty, particularly in women, is the natural, innate female response to that difference, and our culture has been battling it (partly unsuccessfully) since the 1960s.

You can read some excellent reviews of the book by clicking on the link above or by going to Eighth Day Books (where Kansas Dad first learned of it).

Instead, I'll quote a few sentences from the book I found memorable.

Women had a special vulnerability in the past, we are told, only because there was a risk of pregnancy. Now that we have the Pill, all vulnerability is abolished. But we seem to be learning that there is more to sexual vulnerability that the risk of pregnancy. (page 91)

Modesty is a reflex, arising naturally to help a woman protect her hopes and guide their fulfillment--specifically, this hope for one man. (page 94)

At least when there is a risk of pregnancy, there is a physical corollary to the emotional risk--so you are careful. And because the women had to be careful, the men were careful too. Our bodies naturally protected our hearts....I'm talking about the young woman who hopes for marriage and is essentially waiting for "the right guy"; I think for her the Pill is seductive and, I would go as far as to say, dangerous, holding out the promise of sex without consequences, and without any "irregularities." (pages 207-208)

Now, I'm not sure I agree with all of her assertions. It seems to me that there are other causes to the struggles of young women (anorexia, cutting, rape, stalking, etc.) than just a lack of modesty. I do think, however, she makes a strong case for a better world for our daughters, and ourselves, with a return to modesty. There's also a good chance Kansas Dad and I will decide to pull our kids out of sex education when the time comes (even if they are in Catholic schools). [A book read long before the thought of homeschooling surfaced.]

And don't forget to read the appendix. Trust me; some real gems only appear there.


  1. We're definitely going to have to disagree on the fundamentals of this post (especially the sex education part), but that aside, I wonder if you noticed your titles of your recent posts and the message sent by them alone?

    "Boys will be boys"
    "Protection for Our [female] Hearts"

    It's a dangerous message, I believe, to impart to girls that they somehow need to be restrained/protected/sheltered, while boys are free to realize their potential/nature/masculine side.

    Frankly, it's a disservice to both genders. My son has vulnerabilities that need protection and nurturing just as girls also have inquisitiveness and the need for physical activity,which should be cultivated.

    Similar to my experiences living throughout the country, if one focuses solely on the differences between the genders (akin to South/North differences), highlights them, reinforces them, then, I believe, differences will be all you see. When, in my opinion, there are far more similarities. One-year-old boys are more like one-year-old girls than they different. Just as the day to day living in one part of the US is more similar than it is different. Coffee in the morning is coffee in the morning. Learning to walk is learning to walk.

    Just based on what I've read of her development, I'd suspect that first daughter enjoys "being good" and sitting still just as much as my son ;)

    Finally, I think this point can be extrapolated to the current post, and perhaps I'm not modest enough...but I'd also posit that my feelings about sex and its meaning are more similar to than different from my husband's!

  2. Kristin, thank you for posting such a thoughtful comment! I will admit first and foremost that I do not have the mental energy to respond as well as you deserve. (It's been a very exhausting weekend, post to come on that if I can find five minutes worth of energy.)

    I agree with you that we should nurture our boys and encourage our girls. All children should be pushed to their boudnaries. It's hard to remember all the deatils of this book, but I believe we'd all benefit from a more modest society. (We may have to agree to disagree on that point.)

    As far as sex education, I am by no means advocating no education on the subject. I think Kansas Dad and I just prefer to handle that area ourselves. I'm not even sure we'd teach something different to our son than our daughters...but we'd certainly teach them separately.

    The personalities of our children matter much more than their gender per se. We often joke that First Son could stand to take more risks and First Daughter could stand to take fewer. Their personalities are very different! One of the benefits of homeschooling is that I won't have to depend on stereotypes of gender (or anything else) as a teacher in a classroom would, at least at the beginning of the year. We can teach each child according to the personality that we know and are helping to develop.

    Ok, I'm pretty sure I got off topic here. I apologize again for my incoherence and hopefully will be more focused after a few nights of decent sleep.


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