What I wear does not dictate my actions

Jonathan Rienstra


Last Saturday in The Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Moses published an op-ed piece entitled “Why do we let them dress like that?” It is an enlightening read about teenage girls, the clothing they wear and how that clothing, allegedly, turns teenage girls into sluts. I was unaware of this, but apparently thigh-exposing skirts and low-cut blouses turn high school girls into “prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves,” according to Moses.

Moses asks a friend whose teenage daughter goes to an all-girls private school in New York just why young girls dress like mini Paris Hiltons. Moses even concludes in a video accompanying the column that most teenage girls are dressing too provocatively. I’m not sure that asking the mom of an extra from Gossip Girl constitutes hard scientific data, but hey, opinion columns don’t require real evidence, just a few quotes from an anonymous rich friend.

What’s more, Moses projects upon, well, everyone when she writes, “I don’t know one [of my friends] who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I’ve ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she’d ‘experimented’ more.”

OK, so Moses’ generation didn’t handle the boom-boom-pow with the utmost of grace, but does that make today’s generation culpable because they dress like it’s summer year-round? And Moses isn’t even correct when she opines that in recent years, “promiscuity has hit new heights (it always does!).”

According to studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of teenagers between 15 and 19 years old having sex steadily declined between 1988 and 2008, with guys dropping from 60 to 43 percent and girls losing nine percentage points from a high of 51 percent in 1988. If I can find that in 10 minutes on Google, Moses could probably take a few seconds away from watching the sky fall to do the same.

But it appears Moses is too busy implementing a double standard that she claims she wants to avoid. In her world, girls’ clothing dictates their actions in a way that does not apply to boys, and it seems to be the sole cause of this mythical increase in bumping uglies. It also adds to the ugly falsity that guys are predators and women are merely objects to be pursued.

Moses ends her column by addressing the tricky issue of what to tell your daughter when she leaves for college. “We wouldn’t dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: ‘Study hard and floss every night, honey — and for heaven’s sake, get laid!’ But that’s essentially what we’re saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they’re still living under our own roofs.”

There’s a difference between sexiness and sexuality, but Moses doesn’t seem to get that. Instead of assuming that any girl in a miniskirt is a skank, it’s important to note that clothing does not dictate action. Sometimes I like to rock the mank (man tank top) because I want to show off my guns. That’s for me. It’s certainly not an invitation for girls to talk to me, and believe me, they don’t.
But women and teenage girls should be able to wear the clothes they want without assuming that anything more is going to come from it. Sexiness is about empowering the individual — it’s not an invitation. Moses is too concerned with image over substance, and there aren’t any facts to back up her convictions. All this does is turn sex into a zero-sum game where you’re either the chaste virgin or, as Moses puts it, “the campus mattress.”

Sex is a powerful aspect of our social lives and one that should be given respect, especially on a college campus. It’s important to have strong self-esteem on such an important matter, but if young women are constantly told that they look like prostitutes, how does that help? Projecting insecurities onto a younger generation — one that is actually taking part in less sex than previous peers — does nothing but invite more of the same self-doubt.

Instead, sex should be celebrated for its excellence when done right in a healthy and responsible manner. It shouldn’t be castrated because of mistakes someone else made nor should it be compelled by the tightness of one’s shirt.