This article has been updated and migrated to my new blog, Biblicalsexology.com, dedicated exclusively to the topic of sexuality from a Biblical perspective. You can find the new article here.
Should Christian women wear leggings as pants?
Since leggings and yoga pants very clearly reveal a woman’s form are they inappropriate to wear? Is a woman tempting the men who see her in leggings to lust after her or is it not her fault if they do?
The whole “leggings and yoga pants debate” was brought back to into the national spot light last week when two girls were not allowed on a plane because they were wearing leggings. The Washington Post reported on the event as follows:
“A United Airlines gate agent barred two girls from boarding a flight Sunday morning because the girls were wearing leggings.
Another girl who was wearing gray leggings had to change before she was allowed to board the flight from Denver to Minneapolis, a witness said.
“She’s forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can’t board,” Shannon Watts, who was at a gate at Denver International Airport, said on Twitter. “Since when does @united police women’s clothing?”
United, responding to tweets about the incident tweeted that “United shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage.” And added, “This is left to the discretion of the agents.”
The airline’s passenger contract says for the safety of all passengers and crew members, the airline can refuse to let a passenger board if the passenger is “barefoot or not properly clothed.”
So was it improper for these girls to be wearing leggings on this flight? And a much broader question would be is it improper for Christian women to wear leggings or yoga pants at all in public?
I want to clarify what we are talking about here. For a long time women have worn leggings under dresses or long blouses and other clothing. But now for several years women have begun wearing leggings by themselves as pants. That is the subject of this discussion.
Before we get into answering the question of the morality of women wearing leggings or yoga pants in public settings we need to establish a very important fact about men.
God made men with a much higher testosterone level than women. Most men have 10 times the level of testosterone in their system and probably 10 times the sex drive to go along with it. A man’s sex drive is not only significantly stronger than a woman’s but the entire driving force of it is different. While normal and healthy women desire sex too – their sex drive is emotionally and relationally driven. A man’s sex drive is physically and visually driven.
So yes, for us as men when we see a woman in legging pants or yoga pants it is far more sexually arousing to us then if a woman had on baggy pants or a loose-fitting dress that hid the shape of her rear end, pelvic area and legs.
As man we cannot control the fact that the sight of a woman’s figure displayed in this manner brings us pleasure – our brains are wired by the design of God to receive pleasure from the female form. Let put it this way to you ladies reading this article.
If you were to walk by your coworker’s desk and they had just sat down with hot cheeseburger from your favorite cheeseburger place – would the sight and smell of that cheeseburger not send you pleasure signals through you brain? Would you not be made hungry as a result? Of course you would. The male physical and visual sex drive works exactly the same way when it comes to seeing women we find attractive.
The debate here is not about how men’s brains work – that is just a biological fact. The debate is about what is sinful and what is not – what is lust and what is not and ultimately if women are tempting men to lust by wearing leggings and yoga pants in public settings.
Current Cultural Views of Lust
Most people have been taught that causing a man to lust means simply causing him to be sexually aroused by the mere sight of a woman regardless of her actions toward him. So the thought goes – if a woman is fully covered this will sharply reduce a man’s chances of being sexually aroused by her form which they believe is lust on his part.
Because of this belief about what lust is some conservative Christians have their wives and daughters dress in very baggy dresses with that go to the floor with long sleeves to completely cover their arms. They may even wear their hair tied up with a head covering of some sort.
This same concept when taken to its logical conclusion is why some Muslims make their wives be covered from head to toe with only a screen to see through on the face.
But true wisdom comes from being able to recognize our presuppositions or preconceived notions of morality. Only when we are willing to question things that we have believed since before we can remember anything else will we be able to find the truth in many areas of life.
As Christians we believe that the starting point for our all the moral questions of life is the Bible. So if we are to truly understand what the Bible teaches about any subject of life – we must disregard all our presuppositions and let God’s Word to speak to us. We must do as I have said on this site many times “remove our cultural glasses” and see the truth regardless of our presupposed ideas.
So take off your cultural glasses and put on your seat belt as we show you that the question that is the title of this article gets it all wrong.
What the Bible says about lust and causing your brother to stumble
Let’s first establish some two Biblical truths that are applicable to this discussion.
The Bible says it is sin to lust
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”
Romans 7:7 (KJV)
As we can see from the passage above, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that to lust is to sin.
We then can see from the Gospel of Matthew that sexual lust is sin:
“27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Matthew 5:27-28 (KJV)
The Bible says we should not do things that tempt other to sin
““Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”
Romans 14:13 (KJV)
The Apostle Paul makes it clear that we as both men and women should never do something to could cause our brother to sin. We should not put things in front of them that might trip them up spiritually.
So this is an open and closed case right? These Scriptures prove that the question of this article truly is a rhetorical question right? Well not so fast. Keep your seat securely fastened and keep your arms in the vehicle as we continue our quest for the truth in this matter.
Distinguishing the Biblical definition of lust from the cultural definition of lust
This is the huge presupposition that sits right in front of us. We are presupposing what lust is. In our language when we think of lust we think of sexual arousal. If a person is turned on sexually by the sight of someone who is not their spouse that is lust according to our culture.
But is that the definition of lust according to the Bible? Let’s find out.
Remember that passage from Romans 7:7 where Paul was saying lust was sin and we were all saying “Amen!”? Well he actually tells us what it is sin – because God said in the 10 commandments “Thou shalt not covet”. So what does that tell us? It tells us that lust is synonymous with covetousness.
So if lust is synonymous with covetousness then what is covetousness?
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
Exodus 20:17 (KJV)
So up to this point we have established with absolute certainty that lust is sin and lust is tied directly to the 10th commandment.
The 10 commandment shows us by the context in which covetousness is used what it means. Is covetousness finding your neighbor’s house desirable? No it is not. Is covetousness dreaming about or fantasizing about what it would be like to live in your neighbor’s house? No it is not. Covetousness is the desire to sinfully possess something that does not belong to you.
We have seen this story play out in many movies. A man desires the land or home of another man. So he offers him money for it but he won’t sell. He says he will never sell it. Was the first man finding the second man’s land desirable a sin? No it was not. But if he cannot legally acquire this land and begins to think of how he can illegally acquire that other man’s land he has now gone from righteous desire to sinful covetousness.
This exact same principle applies to a man’s wife, his daughter or any other woman. It is NOT lust (covetousness) when a man simply finds a woman sexually desirable no matter her marital status. It is no more a sin for this man to imagine her naked or even imagine having sex with her than it is for a man to imagine what another man’s house looks like on the inside and what it would be like to live there.
Lust is born when a man’s natural God given sexual desires are turned into sinful sexual covetousness and he desires to unlawfully possess a woman.
I know your head is probably spinning. Your presuppositions about lust have been completely blown out of the water.
But we are now coming to end our journey so just hold tight just a little longer.
Now let’s take the original question of this article and look at the presupposition right in the middle of the question:
“Is a woman tempting the men who see her in leggings to lust after her or is it not her fault if they do?”
So what is the presupposition? This question presupposes that if a woman dresses in any way which might cause a man to be sexually aroused by her or find her sexually desirable or fantasize about having sex with her that this is her causing him to lust.
But what we know from our journey in the Scriptures is lust does not refer to sexual arousal or sexual imagination. It refers to covetousness which in the context of sexual lust means that a man has the desire to unlawfully possess a woman in a sexual manner.
I would argue that once we understand what lust actually is then we understand better what enticing someone to lust looks like. I would argue that for 99 percent of cases a woman causes a man to lust after her first by her actions and then secondarily by her appearance.
A woman has to draw a man with actions in the form of words or body motions before true lust develops in most cases. The vast majority of men will not desire to unlawfully possess a woman unless that woman motions in some way either verbally or through body movement toward him that she might be available to him. In other words she flirts with him in some manner. This is when the seed of lust in 90 percent of cases with men.
Now are there men who lust after women who have not flirted or motioned or talked in any sexual manner toward them? Yes! But if a man lusts after a woman simply because of her beautiful appearance and not any sexual flirting or actions on her part that would draw him to lust after her then his sin of lust lays 100% at his feet and she is innocent.
So now let’s change our original question to what Christian women should really being asking themselves in regard to causing men to lust after them:
Instead of asking:
“Isn’t it wrong for me to wear this because it might sexually arouse a man or make him have pleasurable thoughts about me?”
Women should ask themselves:
“Did I just flirt with him? Did I lead him on in some manner?”
So are you saying women can just walk around half naked or completely naked wherever they go?
No In am not saying that at all. But as the Scriptures say “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). That means we should wear clothing that is appropriate to the occasion. It may not be appropriate for a woman to wear a tight tee shirt and shorts to her job unless she works at Hooters and it may not be appropriate for a woman to wear a bikini unless she is going to beach, swimming pool or sun bathing.
But what about I Timothy 2:9’s admonition for women to dress modestly?
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”
I Timothy 2:9 (KJV)
I am glad you asked that. I have written an entire post on that verse going in-depth into what modesty actually means and the context in which this verse is talking about women’s dress. You can read it here.
The very short answer is that like the word lust, our culture has made up its own definition of modesty. Modesty in I Timothy 2:9 refers to women dressing in attire that is appropriate to the occasion. It then tell us that for the occasion of gathering in the church assembly for worship women should wear “modest apparel” or literally “be appropriate clothed in full covering garments”.
Paul gave a similar warning about food in worship. He told the Corinthians not to abuse the communion table by turning worship into a feast when he wrote:
“And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.”
1 Corinthians 11:34 (KJV)
Paul was not saying it was wrong for us to think about food or sex or be aroused to hunger for food or sex. He was saying that when we come together as a churches for worship and communion we need to put these natural God given hungers aside and fully focus on God. He was not condemning sexual thought or women dressing sexually outside the Church in the same way that he was not condemning being aroused to hunger for food outside the Church.
It was all about time and place.
Combating Negative Views of Masculine Sexuality
This debate over women wearing leggings or yoga pants is actually a great opportunity to help both men and women have a better understanding and respect for male sexuality. As Christians we must measure everything action, everything thought and every desire we have by the Bible. The Bible has been called the “Canon” which means “measure” or “rule”. It means the Bible should be the standard or rule by which we measure our lives.
Thousands of years ago back in the Garden of Eden God designed man and woman with distinct masculine and feminine natures. Contrary to many false doctrines promoted over centuries of Christianity – the distinct male and female sexual natures were not a result of sin and the fall. They were made by the design of God from day one.
That means when Adam saw Eve for the first time he had the same dopamine rush that men get today when they see women they find beautiful and yes he probably got an erection. This is not something dirty – it is by the design of God.
But as Christians we recognize that the fall corrupted the original masculine and feminine natures God designed. That means man’s sexual nature and woman’s sexual nature was corrupted in some ways from the fall. Our task is to discover what parts of our distinct male and female sexual natures are still by the original design of God and which parts are a corruption of that design.
In the context of the male sexual nature, we must measure male sexual behaviors by the Bible. If a certain male sexual behavior conflicts with God’s moral law than we condemn it but if that behavior is not condemned by God’s moral law or is honored by God’s moral law than we honor it as God’s design.
How much honor does male sexuality get in our day and time? I would argue that most Christians have a very negative view of male sexuality and that is something we need to change.
I have chosen some excerpts from an article entitled “A Man’s Perspective on Yoga Pants“ by Al Blanton at 78mag.com to illustrate how male sexuality is commonly dishonored in Christian circles.
“Do I like yoga pants? Of course I do. I think they may be the greatest thing ever invented. But that’s the barbarian in me. The Cro-Magnon. The man…
To say that the leggings “cause” men to stumble might be a stretch (pun intended). Men cause men to stumble, not leggings.
When the gorgeous behinds pass by, we (men) always have a choice. Either a) look away and think nothing else of it, b) appreciate the female form while you sip your half-caf, or c) visualize scenarios that run the prurient gamut.
I believe the first glance is not the problem. It’s the second and third that begin to get us in trouble. But remember, we are always presented with a choice…
I do not write this to bash men; no, indeed I write this to help men, to liberate men…
So the Christian male is faced with a very difficult scenario: pursue purity or feed the beast. We justify the latter by saying it is “natural” or “just the way we were made.”
So in summary, the real problem is not yoga pants. The problem is our mind. The problem is our heart.”
I truly believe that Mr. Blanton did not write this article “to bash men” but instead to help “liberate men” from what he believes is sinful behavior. His intentions are noble.
But Mr. Blanton like many Christian men today has a “zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). Specifically his knowledge of what lust actually is according the Scriptures is lacking and because of this he believes when men take that “second and third” look at a woman or when we “visualize scenarios that run the prurient gamut” (undress a woman in our minds and imagine sexual scenarios with her) that this is the very definition of lust and therefore sin.
He shows some feminist tendencies in his words as well. When he talks about why he as a man likes yoga pants and says “But that’s the barbarian in me. The Cro-Magnon. The man…” that is a nod to modern feminism. The masculine physical and visual sex drive is seen as “uncivilized”, “piggish”, “dirty” and “base”.
Now I am not saying that some men do not act “uncivilized”, “piggish” and “dirty” sometimes. Picture the construction workers whistling at women walking by yelling out comments about their bodies or men gawking at women and making them feel uncomfortable. Men grabbing women or slapping women’s behinds. That we would agree is barbaric behavior on the part of men.
But for Mr. Blanton to say that simply because he likes woman in yoga pants and it gives his brain pleasure that this is somehow barbaric or uncivilized is wrong. His statement was dishonorable to himself, men in general and the God who designed male sexuality. This statement is textbook misandry.
Later Mr. Blanton compares masculine sexuality to “the beast”. This is again is a nod to false views of that equate male sexuality to animal sexuality while lifting up female sexuality as a more civilized and human sexuality that men should try to model in their lives. Again comparing masculine sexuality to a “beast” dishonors men and dishonors the God who made men.
And I yes Mr. Blanton this is in fact “just the way we were made” by God himself. It is as natural for a man to be sexually aroused by women in yoga pants and even to get an erection as it is for a pregnant or nursing mother to lactate when she hears a baby cry, or when she even thinks of her baby. We don’t call women barbaric and uncivilized for their natural reactions to babies and infants yet we condemn men for their natural reactions to women. It is completely and utterly inconsistent.
Let’s take his statement again and translate this to the natural reactions of women to babies:
“To say that the leggings “cause” men to stumble might be a stretch (pun intended). Men cause men to stumble, not leggings.”
This is like saying this toward women:
“To say that crying babies or thoughts of babies “cause” women to lactate might be a stretch. Women cause women to lactate, not babies.”
This just puts the absurdity of the condemnation of the male sexual nature on full display.
I do agree with Mr. Blanton that “the real problem is not yoga pants.”, but I disagree with him that “The problem is our mind” as in the problem is the male sexual nature which he calls barbaric and animalistic.
The problem is not women wearing leggings or yoga pants or men being sexually aroused by or taking pleasure from seeing women in these pants.
The problem is the condemnation of the male sexual nature by both men and women. Men need to be at peace with their nature and as long as they are not being rude and gawking at these women if they take tasteful glances and enjoy the view there is no sin in this.
Women need to stop viewing men as barbaric and sexual beasts and appreciate them for the way God designed them. If a man is gawking at a woman or making lewd gestures and remarks she has a right to say something because that is rude. If he is only taking passing glances at her she has no more right to shame him or that then she would her girlfriend for lactating because she heard a baby cry.
A final word for women on this subject of what you wear
Whether it is yoga pants, leggings, tight fitting dresses or blouses as a woman you must be aware of the fact that that the sight of your form brings sexual pleasure to men even if they hide it very well. Normal men see you as God designed you – as a both a person and an object of sexual beauty and pleasure.
So in essence when a man sees you as a woman it is the same as when you see your favorite foods on TV or in restaurants and you imagine what it would be like to taste that food. But you don’t just go and steal food that you like right? No you legally purchase it before enjoy eating it.
In the same way, because a good man sees a woman as a person as well as object of sexual beauty and pleasure he does not go up and just grab her and take her. He does not call out lewd remarks to her or gawk at her.
In God’s design he marries her. Then as part of his marriage relationship to her he can “come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits” (Song of Solomon 4:16). I hope that this journey through the Scriptures has helped to change your perspective of what lust actually is. If you are woman – you don’t have to be ashamed to dress in beautiful clothing, or even clothing that might be sexually arousing to men provide that you follow these Biblical principles:
- If you are married or still under your father’s authority are they are ok with you dressing in this manner? If they are not then you need to submit to male headship that God has placed in your life.
- If you are able to wear clothing that some would consider more form fitting or sexually arousing are you doing so at the proper place and time? Maybe it is ok to wear tight fitting leggings for a night out with your girlfriends but it may be inappropriate for school(or on an airplane) It certainly would be for wrong for worship services in your church.
- Whether you are wearing more sexually appealing clothing or not – are you flirtatious with men to the point that you make them think they could have sex with you outside of marriage? If that is the case this needs to stop. That is the very definition of a woman causing a man to lust.
On the subject of United Airlines barring these two girls for wearing improper attire. They have every right to do so. It is their airline. They can determine what clothing must be worn to fly on their planes.