The Freedom In Modesty

By Jessica Fehrenbacher

Men and women have been the focus of provocative pictures for a long time, but recently, the access has become more widespread through the internet and social media. Images show various stages of undress, or in some cases, full nudity from men and women who range in profession from athletes to actresses to singers. Many of these individuals discuss how proud they are of their bodies. They justify these pictures by talking about how tastefully the pictures are presented, how exhilarating it is to have these pictures shown to the world or that it’s empowering to show the human body in this form.

Let me be clear on this point: the human body is amazing in both its image and its capabilities. There is nothing wrong with the human body in male or female forms. However, there is a pureness and freedom in having modesty with our bodies and teaching that lesson to the young people in our lives. The problems lie in the images filling the minds of young, impressionable girls and boys around the country. Young people see these images and might feel that it is acceptable to put themselves on display in a similar way. Do we have to the show the world everything we have to make an impression? Do we need attention so desperately that we are willing to devalue ourselves to get it?

There are many ways to help young people with the multitude of images that they scroll through every day. Acknowledge that the images are a constant in our society, but that we don’t have to make them a constant in our life. We can control to some extent what images pass before our eyes. As adults, we need to be vigilant of screen time with young people. This can prove difficult because it is everywhere, but consistency is the key. We must set limits and provide other outlets for young people like outside time, peer to peer contact and community service.

Talk with young people about their thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about the images. Depending on the gender of the young person you are speaking with, the conversation might veer in different ways. Girls will often focus on how beautiful or perfect an image of a woman might be. Boys will comment more on his physical strength or an ability he might perceive him to possess. Remind the young people that you are talking with that most of these images have been enhanced or modified, sometimes in great detail. We should strive to keep our bodies healthy, not aim for an ideal that is unattainable.

The internet has allowed images to remain forever. Too many young people have put images on social media or some other outlet, only to regret it years later. It is crucial for us to educate and protect them, so that they don’t make a poor choice.

Jessica Fehrenbacher is the Make A Difference Grants Program Manager at Youth Resources.