We were in the library looking at a photograph book of the beautiful countryside in France. Then we turned to a picture with a somewhat immodestly clad female dancer.
“These French!” my date said. “Who wants to see that?” He immediately turned the page.
I just smiled. On the inside I was throwing confetti. Yes! I thought. He gets it!
Two weeks later he showed me a movie with another female “dancer” with far less clothes on. Okay! I corrected myself. He doesn’t get it.
I was a little nervous talking to him about my standards for fear of sounding holier-than-thou or making him feel bad. I shouldn’t have been worried about either.
“No one does that!” he laughed when I mentioned fast-forwarding, looking away or when bad enough turning it off or walking out. My idealism was nice, he continued, but I needed to get out of my comfortable little girl’s world and live in the real one.
I had had this conversation with guys before. I could have told him his stance was not comfortable for me at all. I would have loved to say you’re right, it’s not important. But I couldn’t.
Years before, modesty was hard for me, until I realized modesty was not a practice just in response to evil but in respect for what is holy—male and female sexuality. The word “holy” literally means “set apart.” Once I viewed even the sight of my female figure as priceless, modesty becomes easy.
In my efforts to understand modesty, I had gone to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In paragraph 2521 it says: “Purity requires modesty; it is an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden.”
Nowhere does it even imply that watching an otherwise great movie excuses us from “refusing to unveil what should remain hidden,” what is intimate in a person.
If my sexuality is such a treasure that even the sight of it is holy, then so is everyone else’s sexuality. If I respect my value enough to refuse to unveil before another person’s eyes what should remain hidden in my body—then “love thy neighbor as thyself” requires that I respect another person’s value enough to refuse to unveil before my eyes what should remain hidden in their body.
Whether it causes lustful thoughts or not, since this does not belong to me, I have no right to see it. I can control what I watch, and I should respect every actor and actress as much as I respect myself.
Otherwise I’d be saying “I’m a good Catholic, so I will respect myself with the veil of modesty. But you—look how you’re living! I don’t have to respect you with the veil of modesty.” How self-righteous and unloving is that? The value of a person is unconditional, so they deserve unconditional respect. Catholics must give people more respect than they give themselves because we know they are worth it.
Practicing modesty to this extent is not living in a bubble away from “the real world.” This is giving every human being the respect God’s image deserves and it is living modesty to its fullness.
I don’t think God will be disappointed if I watch less movies than my peers. But it would hurt God’s heart if I acted like a four-year-old pointing at my siblings with: “They started it! They did it first! It would be like telling Him: Father, my brothers and sisters in Hollywood didn’t know or ignored the respect their bodies deserve. But I knew. And I didn’t turn off that TV. I didn’t walk out of that theater. Because they didn’t put a veil between their bodies and my eyes—I didn’t bother to either.”
“…every obscenity in the written word and every form of indecency on the stage and screen, should be condemned publicly and unanimously by all those who have at heart the advance of civilization and the safeguarding of the outstanding values of the human spirit. It is quite absurd to defend this kind of depravity in the name of art or of culture.”—Pope Saint Paul VI
Let God open your eyes to human sexuality—something so sacred even the sight is “set apart”— something “holy, to be unveiled only in covenant love.”
Sarah Karlyn Larue is a 25-year-old author of eight books, who loves her Faith and loves writing and is happiest when putting them together. Her latest series, That They Might Have Love is for all Catholic young women who want to seek God first in their love lives and find greater love and joy when they are single, dating, and married.