[UPDATE: Read Chapter One of Wendy Shalit’s new book Girls Gone Mild online!]
Last summer, my friend Kathy recommended a stirring book called A Return to Modesty. Author Wendy Shalit‘s writing style is engaging, honest, and thought-provoking. I think Wendy has been given a gift of knowing how to clearly relate common sense to a society in the habit of falling for foolish lies. Wendy seems to be a sort of “voice crying out in the wilderness.”
Reading the book caused me to analyze my own thoughts about sex and modesty, realizing a few twisted ideas were lurking in the depths of my brain (and I was raised in a conservative Christian household).
To give you just an example of Wendy’s thoughts, here is a snipped from Modest Extremes: Why an Observant Jew Understands Sexuality Better Than Hugh Hefner:
“History has taught us a surprising lesson: Real intimacy flourishes only where there’s also restraint. Having sex for its own sake, without waiting to integrate our deepest emotions and hopes, at best becomes boring, fast. At worst, men and women end up competing over how cruelly they can use one another.
“In truth, the real reason for sexual modesty is not shame, but an awareness of how precious we are. Smirk at that statement if you will, but the fact remains: It is a rare dog that desires a candlelit dinner before mating. On the other hand, it is a rare human who can have a one-night stand without feeling at least a twinge of guilt afterward. And, howls of protest from vested interests notwithstanding, most men know that their most intimate relationships should not be with their computer browsers.
“…Most of us recognize that being desensitized to the power of sexuality is sad, that if you’ve gotten to the point where stopping for a lap dance is like stopping at McDonald’s, then you’re missing out. Yet instituting concrete boundaries to preserve sensitivity such as not hugging people of the opposite sex outside of one’s family is still seen as absurd. Nonetheless, I maintain that examining our sexual values from the vantage point of Orthodox Jews can be refreshing. If you pull aside a religious woman from Jerusalem and try to explain our debate over whether your boyfriend’s receiving a lap dance from a stripper constitutes cheating, she will surely think it is our culture that’s gone completely crazy. Indeed, she might argue with good reason that we are the ones who are repressed about sexuality. Emotionally repressed, that is.
“And could you really blame her? When it comes to modesty, I often wonder, who are the real extremists? Those who insist that only public and tawdry displays of sexuality are legitimate, or those who appreciate privacy and restraint as necessary components for attaining real intimacy?”
This summer, Wendy Shalit has come out with a new book entitled, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good. I can’t wait to read it.
Girls Gone Mild has been popping up all over the media and blogosphere — with mixed reactions!