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    Modesty and Maud

    Alice, back in Texas, is writing about the interplay between freedom and decorum again:

    Well, after trawling through enough racks of clothes for people whose attempts to attract the opposite sex are so subtle that they make Britney Spears look like Maria Von Trapp, one might be forgiven for thinking that a few burquas here and there would smarten the place up a bit. But then, one of the liberations of the West is the right to make a total muppet of yourself in shopping malls.

    I’m at the tail end of the part of the life cycle in which I can get away with appearing in public in a saucy (not to say slutty) little T-shirt without looking pathetic, so I’m working it while I can.

    Within reason. Even when I was in my 20’s, I was never a fan of the leave-nothing-to-the-imagination school. It’s not just that I was brought up to dress properly when appearing in public, though that’s part of it. It’s also that running around half-naked makes lasciviousness less fun. (Yes, I know, that lesson is as old as civilization itself. It could stand to be rediscovered.) There are few better ways to drive yourself pleasurably insane than to be talking to a guy in a dress shirt and loosened tie and try to guess, based on the backs of his hands and what you can glimpse of his throat when he leans in to say something over the din, how hairy he is, how solidly he’s built, and whether his skin is creamier where the sun doesn’t normally hit it. A shredded, low-slung tank top–through which you and everyone he’s shared a train car with today have been able to scrutinize, at leisure, everything but the nipples–kind of puts the kibosh on that kind of amusement.

    Of course, what Alice is talking about operates at an entirely different level. When it’s the burqa (or chador or salwar kamiz) under discussion, you lose the ability to feed the senses in ways that have nothing to do with naughtiness.

    Added at 10 a.m.: Susanna has linked to a portfolio of nude photographs and expressed both delight in their aesthetic value and reservations about the fact that there are naked people in them. I can’t help with that issue from a Christian perspective, but I don’t think that just any old nude image adds to the weird fetishization of sex in American culture. If art is considered a special cultural zone in which inspiration is given the purest possible expression, you can distinguish between posing nude in a photographer’s studio (fine) and being half-naked thoughout a day’s errands at the grocery store, post office, and DMV (problematic).

    4 Responses to “Modesty and Maud”

    1. Kris says:

      I’ve been sitiing here trying to craft a response to this post, because is simply begs for one. However, after much soul-searching, I’m left thinking only one thing: “So *that* explains why your t-shirts are so tight.”
      Friday night brain, I guess.
      Ever read any Piers Anthony? He wrote a (good-but-then-progressively-bad) series in which there was a society where only the very, very rich were allowed to wear clothes. An entertainingly ficticious version of that idea.
      Please excuse any spelling or grammar errors – I is still half-blind…

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Figures the first thing you’d want to do as your vision recovers is get back to typing out sarcastic bitchery. /: )
      Unfortunately, the post-surgery meds seem to be affecting your memory. For an urban gay guy, I do *not* wear tight clothes. Maybe you’re thinking of someone you used to work with?

    3. Profoundly true. That’s something I’ve thought for a very long time. Sex, to be sexy, must be mysterious, taboo, forbidden. I prefer the suggestive to the explicit. Leave things to the imagination.