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Nihilism, Futurist Traditionalism and Conservationism

A Return to Modesty, by Wendy Shalit

28 08 10 - 09:31

A brief excerpt here:


Couples who live together before marriage are much less likely to get married; and if they do marry, they're more likely to get divorced. Yet the vocabulary of modesty has largely dropped from our cultural consciousness; when a woman asks a question that necessarily implicates it, we can only mumble about "space issues."

I first became interested in the subject of modesty for a rather mundane reason - because I didn't like the bathrooms at Williams College. Like many enlightened colleges and universities these days, Williams houses boys next to girls in its dormitories and then has the students vote by floor on whether their common bathrooms should be coed. It's all very democratic, but the votes always seem to go in the coed direction because no one wants to be thought a prude. When I objected, I was told by my fellow students that I "must not be comfortable with my body." Frankly, I didn't get that, because I was fine with my body; it was their bodies in such close proximity to mine that I wasn't thrilled about.

I ended up writing about this experience in Commentary as a kind of therapeutic exercise. But when my article was reprinted in Reader's Digest, a weird thing happened: I got piles of letters from kids who said, "I thought I was the only one who couldn't stand these bathrooms." How could so many people feel they were the "only ones" who believed in privacy and modesty? - Mystagogy


People forget that morality is not arbitrary; it's an adaptation to reality, and not just material constraint but the nature of reality itself. You get one life, and one youth; you probably want those times to be as important, as impressive, and as sacred as possible. Modesty is the gateway to that end, which in turn delivers a more intense experience -- through choice, or quality over quantity -- than ten thousand one night stands could hope to deliver.