1. Modesty is important, but you are not responsible for men’s “impure thoughts.”
I’ve never sat through a young women’s lesson, but from what I gleaned from conversations with my female friends, it seems that a recurring theme is the importance of maintaining one’s “virtue” (a euphemism for sexual purity.) As a part of these lessons, adolescent LDS girls are taught to wear “modest” clothing. They’re warned that men are all super-horny and just want to have sex all the time, and it’s the women’s responsibility to keep them from having impure thoughts and acting on them.
This is simply not true. Men have just as much power over their thoughts, feelings and inclinations as women do. Though women should be wise in their clothing selection and not dress like sluts, it’s never a viable excuse to treat them in a disrespectful way. So if a guy makes suggestive remarks, tries to touch your no-no parts or asks you to do something that you know is wrong, it’s not because of the way you’re dressed. It’s because he’s a perv.
Dress modestly because it shows respect for yourself, and respect for others. It also makes you more attractive! Nothing makes me sadder than seeing an otherwise attractive woman ruin her appearance with excessive makeup and tawdry dress…
2. The mission does not make the man.
In September of 2009, I wrote this as a letter to the editor of BYU’s student newspaper, The Daily Universe. When it was published in the readers’ forum section, it sparked a firestorm of controversy:
"The other day I was eating lunch in the Cannon Center when I overheard a conversation between two freshman girls in a nearby table. One of the girls mentioned that her sister was getting married to a guy back home who had enlisted right after high school. I almost choked when I heard the other girl’s response: "You mean they’re letting her marry him, even though he didn’t serve a mission?!”
I’m sorry to break this to you, but the mission does not make the man. I’ve known just as many scummy RMs as I’ve known great guys who, for some reason or another, did not serve missions. I served a mission myself (been back over two years, actually) and I can honestly say that my mission didn’t change me or make me a better person. The experience alone of having served a mission does not make you a more spiritual or hardworking guy, that’s something that has to come from within. My advice to any single young woman would be not to look for returned missionaries, but simply men who have the specific attributes you want in an eternal companion.”
…this letter generated a fair amount of buzz and angry responses (including inflammatory facebook messages), some accusing me of downplaying the importance of missionary work (I wasn’t, obviously.) I can’t stand the fact the LDS girls are taught from age two that they need to marry a returned missionary, or that RM status was synonymous with hard worker and worthy member of the Church. I know guys who served with me in Uruguay, including a companion of mine, who are completely inactive.
3. If you want to get asked out, you need to take the initiative.
About two months ago, I was visiting a couple from a ward I used to attend when I was a kid (the husband was my Young Men’s President.) When the conversation turned to life at BYU, they expressed dismay at their daughter’s dating prospects. “We’re so disappointed with the guys at BYU,” said the dad, “we have a daughter who’s been there for four years and she’s hardly been asked out on any dates!” I hesitated for a second. “Well,” I started, “if she wants to get asked out, she has to do her part…” The mom then chimed in, “I’m of the school of thought that it’s the man’s responsibility to do all the pursuing.” I cringed. The idea that romantic conquest is exclusively a man’s job is a great attitude to have if you’re a guy, but it’s terrible attitude for a woman to have.
Unfortunately, too many LDS girls have been raised with this idea that they can just sit there and men will ask them out. But alas, that’s not how it works. I know many single ladies at BYU (or in the Church’s YSA program in general) feel frustrated with not getting asked out on dates, a sentiment that’s no doubt compounded when they see their friends, roommates and classmates getting asked out and having meaningful relationships. In reality, dating is a choice, both for men and women. You can drastically improve your chances of getting asked out just by making yourself available. That includes going places by yourself. Most men are too timid to strike up a conversation with you in front of your friends, much less ask you out. Also, it helps to be more social and outgoing, and pretend to be interested in a guy when he’s talking to you. Men naturally gravitate towards women that come off as interested and impressed by them. Even if men don’t get the hint, a great way of getting dates is simply telling a mutual friend that you like someone and have that friend subtly tip them off (I recently attended the wedding of a couple I helped set up using that technique.) The bottom line is, women have just as much power in choosing whom they date and how often. So don’t just sit there, be pro-active!