One Saturday evening in the early 1970’s (when I was in high school) I was watching the Miss Universe pageant on television with some of my brothers. At one point my mom walked into the room. On the TV screen was Miss Lebanon strutting around in a bikini. When my mom saw her she said (in a repulsive tone of voice), “She’s really ugly!” I immediately responded to my mom’s comment by saying, “No she’s not mom. She’s one of the most beautiful women in the pageant.” My mom shot back, “There’s nothing beautiful about her. She’s ugly!” Then my dad walked into the room, so I dragged him into the conversation by saying, “Dad, do you think she’s ugly?” He looked at the television and said, “No, she’s not ugly.” I looked at my mom and said, “Mom, you know she’s not ugly. You’re just saying she’s ugly because she’s wearing a bikini and you don’t think she should be parading around on national television in a bikini.” My mom then proceeded to lecture me, my brothers, and my dad about why it was inappropriate for us to be watching a show that had women prancing around on stage “half-naked.”
I grew up in a family of 17 children. I had 8 brothers and 8 sisters and my mom constantly railed against immodesty. She had strict rules about what my sisters could wear around the house and in public. She knew how vulnerable and foolish young women could be and she was keenly aware of the weaknesses and desires of men.
Last week the local newspaper reported that the Miss USA organization released pictures of this year’s contestants in anticipation of the upcoming Miss USA pageant. What was different about this year’s pictures (as compared to previous years), was that each woman was portrayed in a seductive pose while wearing sexy lingerie. In prior years, the women were shown in traditional poses wearing two-piece swimsuits.
When a reporter asked Donald Trump, the owner of the Miss USA and Miss Universe organizations, about the change in the way the women were being portrayed to the public he said:
These girls are beautiful. They look great in the pictures, and in almost every case they are highly educated. They are very smart. They all do very well after the pageant. They all have great histories. To say they aren’t role models to young women is unfair. They are magnificent. We’re on network TV, and the Miss America folks just got dumped on cable.
So Trump’s real proud of himself because he’s beating out his competition. I guess that justifies his organization’s further descent into the sewer. Unfortunately, he was correct about one thing: the “girls” are considered role models (along with other female celebrities who flaunt their bodies in public) by teenage girls who seek to emulate them. Why else would teenage girls (and their mothers) think it’s okay to wear revealing (and oftentimes seductive) clothing to a prom or other events?
In one of her apparitions to three young children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, the Blessed Virgin Mary told the children, “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend our Lord very much…. More souls go to Hell because of the sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”
So what is it that every Catholic girl should be taught before she starts dating? Having grown up with 8 sisters, and being the father of 6 daughters (ranging in ages from 13 to 27 years old), I’ve thought about this a lot.
I have come up with 3 lessons every Catholic girl must be taught before she is allowed to go out with a boy. The lessons are entitled: (1) The Idling Man; (2) The Passion Bridge; and (3) The Two Greatest Desires. I’m going to cover The Idling Man today. When I refer to “man” or “men” I’m talking about every member of the male species who has gone through puberty.
As fair warning, I have to discuss some things that may be offensive to some adults. I doubt that any teenagers who read this will be offended by the content of this article. About 15 years ago Georgette and I gave a presentation about the dos and don’ts of dating to some Catholic 7th and 8th grade students. Georgette spoke to the girls and I spoke to the boys. We were both surprised by some of the questions after our presentations (which did not directly relate to what we talked about). The “kids” asked about birth control, “safe sex,” in vitro fertilization, divorce, adultery, pornography, and some topics that I won’t name here.
So here is the first thing that a young Catholic girl needs to know before dating: Every normal man is “built” to have a strong desire and need to be intimately involved with a woman. That’s the way God intended it. God not only created man to have the desire and the need for intimacy, but He also made the “marital act” and other types of intimacy very pleasurable. The primary reason God did this was to insure the continuation of the human race.
A man does not have to be “turned on.” He is always on. A man is like an engine that is always warmed up and idling. It doesn’t take much to get him revved up. On a car there is a gas pedal to accelerate the engine. On a man, the primary way to accelerate his desire for sex is through his eyes.
When a woman reveals certain parts of her body by wearing immodest clothing (or posing nude), she extends an unspoken invitation to men to look at her in a lustful way. In addition to the invitation to look (which accelerates the desire the man already has), the woman also extends an unspoken invitation to touch (if the man is present with her and is in a relationship with her). It is not uncommon for a young woman who is dressed immodestly to be offended when the man she’s with is paying attention to and thinking about her body instead of her “great history,” or how “smart” and “educated” she is, or how she’s a “role model” for others. (This shows how devious Trump really is. He knew exactly what he was saying by appealing to the pride and vanity of his “girls.”)
Some women who are reading this may find what I’m saying offensive. They may think I’m blaming women for the way men are and that men should learn to practice self restraint. I’m not attempting to justify the behavior of men. I’m only explaining the tendencies men have because of their fallen human nature. There is a way a man can fight off and resist these tendencies, but I’m going to have to save that discussion for another day.
So if a normal man is always “turned on” and “idling,” what state is a woman ordinarily in? Most of the time, a normal woman is “turned off” (from the standpoint of intimacy). For a woman to be open to intimacy, she has to be turned on and warmed up like a car engine in the middle of winter. (Forgive me for comparing women to car engines, but I wanted to be able to retain continuity in my analogies.) Despite the crude comparison, every mature woman who is reading this understands what I’m talking about.
This is the hardest thing for an inexperienced girl to understand. She believes that boys think and react the same way she thinks and reacts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, these drastic differences between a man and a woman are completely hidden from young girls who have been conditioned to believe that they have to look “sexy” in order to be noticed by boys. A typical girl wants to be loved and accepted for who she is – her personality, her intellect, her charm, her sense of humor – and she interprets a boy’s desire for her as love rather than the raw desire that it really is. She doesn’t realize that the same boy would have the same desire by looking at a picture of a partially or fully undressed woman in a magazine or by seeing that same woman in a movie or on television. The problem with trying to convince a young girl who is “in love” of these truths is that she will most likely believe that her boyfriend is an exception to the rule. He is not an exception. A young girl needs to be in the state of grace to fully understand and accept these truths.
I have more to say about this, but I think you get my point. All Catholic parents have a responsibility to: (1) explain these unknown “facts of life” to their daughters; (2) require that their daughters dress modestly; (3) practice heroic purity themselves so their daughters can learn from their example; and (4) pray for their daughters. I challenge you to live up to your responsibility.