Friday, January 27, 2012

[Dancer Post] Causing to Stumble

Editor's Note: This week features a reflection from Alexandra Joye Warren, another extraordinary dancer and artistic collaborator who is bringing this dance to life. A few months ago Alex and I got into some deep discussions questioning if we can ever go too far displaying our sexy?
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell."
Matthew 18:6-9 New International Version (NIV)
Alexandra Joye Warren

When I first heard about The Window Sex Project I was excited. I felt like it was a piece that was relevant to my everyday experiences. I’ve blogged about the ridiculous "hollas" I’ve received on the street, even when I was wearing an outfit as fashionable as a paper bag. (And not a tricked out Project Runway–style paper bag, but over-sized, ill fitting, and not generally considered attractive.) As my work in the piece developed some questions began to surface.

Are we truly innocent creatures or are we ignorant of how much we provoke?

Now, I know some of your eyebrows are rising. I definitely don’t believe that women EVER deserve unwanted sexual advances or violence shown against them, no matter what they do. Every man and woman should be self-controlled.

But, what is a realistic expectation if we stumble out of the house wearing a spandex dress and stilettos?

In the scripture above, Jesus calls his believers to a high standard on both sides. He says, “don’t look” but he also says “don’t provoke.”

Like most women I know, I love to look fly. Growing up, because I was such a rebellious child, the one thing my parents let me have complete domain over is how I wanted to dress. The summer when my curves took full bloom I wanted to wear a very short skort (Yes, a SKORT, honey!) on the first day of ninth grade. My dad probably cringed a little on the inside, but let me go.

When I got to college I became the queen of the backless shirt. I went to college in Atlanta, so "hollas" were an everyday thing. I usually felt really great about myself, except the time in Lenox Mall during All-Star weekend when a strange man smacked me on the butt. 

Still, I loved the attention. As a performer at that time, I likened my attitude to Rachel Berry on Glee, when she confessed, “I’m like Tinkerbell, I need applause to stay alive.”

When I gave my life to God in junior year, I decided, with a lot of help from my loving friends, that the backless shirts needed to go. I remember crying to my friends when they encouraged me to do a major overhaul of my sexy wardrobe. I asked, “Do I have to be ugly now?”

“No!” they exclaimed.

I didn’t understand how to be fly and modest at the same time. My very definition of “making myself pretty” was accentuating my curves. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

I decided that I wanted my spirit to shine. I wanted to attract men for more than my big butt and smile.

I developed close friendships with my brothers-in-Christ and realized these men of God go to great measures to protect themselves from lustfully looking at women. They would literally cross the street to not walk behind a woman wearing a too short skirt, and they would avoid conversation with a woman showing cleavage.

I realized that we were just all trying to get to heaven together. I try to dress modestly now for my brothers and because I know that God really only wants my husband to look at me with that kind of desire. I have no intention to entice anyone else.

Of course, I don’t mind a sincere compliment like “I like your hair!” or “I love your shoes!,” and I’m quick to say thank you.

But please don’t come at me disrespectfully because I’m doing my best to respect you.


  1. My wife and I work with a lot of youth in our church and we've had the same conversation. Until I explained it to her, she never realized the affect that young girls had on boys. I see it in my boys when we're out in public. I girl walks past and their necks go to craning.

    Boys should be taught to respect women and understand those feelings (which are natural). Girls should be taught how their attire affects the boys and ways to dress and still be fly. It's up to us as adults to get to them early and in the end, everyone benefits.

    Good blog post.

  2. Theo -
    While I agree with both you and Alex's sentiment that young ladies should be taught what messages ones clothing might typically send to young men, personally I do not think it's a young woman's responsibility to stop a young man from craning his neck by curbing her attire (if that's not her style). Maybe it is because I am not a man that I cannot empathize, but this is a slippery slippery slope - the first step to victim blaming. I find men attractive every day who may be showcasing various body parts based on his attire - but I am rarely, if ever craning my neck to see him. Maybe the comparison isn't comparable (it digs into "fundamental" differences between men and women) but I think we have to be careful lest we teach young women that sexual harassment or assault is her fault.