“Modest is Hottest” is not in the Bible

Joel Michael Herbert
9 min readJul 4, 2017

Since at least the 1950s, conservative evangelicalism’s overarching sexual ethic has put a substantive emphasis on “modesty” — that is, how [Christian] women dress, specifically in terms of highlighting their sensuality.

I admit that I hesitate to make a blanket statement like this, because I don’t mean to belittle the entire conversation around sexual ethics and how our Western culture’s obsession with sex and perfect bodies is unhealthy for anyone to immerse themselves in, Christian or not. That’s another post for another time, and well worth exploring. BUT — my opening statement is not at all an unfair assessment. Modesty has undeniably enjoyed front-page headline status in Christian conversations about sexuality for decades, almost irrespective of particular church tradition.

I’m hoping to push back hard on this narrative that has dominated the evangelical landscape for some time now. I grew up in the 1990s, in a very extreme group that would have liked to place the blame for all of society’s woes squarely at the feet of miniskirt- and bikini- clad women. It was about as Puritanical as you can imagine. When I left that tradition for more mainstream evangelical circles as a teenager, I encountered a much more subtle and “balanced” sexual ethic that, though less extreme (and therefore less obvious to me at the time), had more in common with the…

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Joel Michael Herbert

Husband. Father. Artist. Storyteller. Armchair Theologian. Advocate, activist and politician. Gryffindor. [neuro]Divergent.