Leggings: A Catholic Man’s Perspective

Q. I’m so tired of people telling me that leggings aren’t pants. Why is it my problem if a guy is looking at me lustfully? I should have the right to wear what I want without people turning me into an object. That’s their problem, not mine.

A. To start, I am aware that I, a male, am writing an article telling you, a female, not to wear leggings as pants… surprising, since you don’t see that many men in leggings (you’re welcome). I know you already get enough of ‘what to wear’ or ‘what not to wear’ from women and probably don’t want to hear it from a man, too.

But since I’ve been watching a quite a bit of Project Runway with my wife lately, obviously making me an expert on all things fashion, I thought I’d chime in. All joking aside, this can certainly be a sensitive subject. I wanted to be upfront and say that I am on your team. I’m doing my best to help build a world full of strong respectful men – men that live the virtue of chastity – but I can’t do that without your help. Today I’m challenging you, solely out of love and respect.

While I’m sure you’re expecting the usual arguments – help the fellas out, men are visual creatures, and the cliche ‘modest is hottest’ – (which I definitely will include) I’m hoping to discuss this from a couple of new angles.

1. Men Do Need Help

Let me be clear: anything that blames a woman for a guy’s lustful gaze is complete crap. Some guys are jerks and will treat women disrespectfully, no matter what they’re wearing. If a guy looks at you like an object, that’s absolutely on him… but at the same time, out of love of neighbor, you could help him out.

Many of my brothers struggle with pornography and are trying to rewire their brains to be clean from all the horrible things they’ve seen in porn. When a woman in real life walks by in an immodest outfit – say, a crop top, something low-cut, something sheer, or something very tight (like leggings), the visual of those body parts can recall images from porn to the front of their brains. It’s extremely hard to purify the brain, and we desperately need your help.

My goal is to get men to treat you more respectfully, and I’m simply asking you to treat us that way, too. Not only does dressing modestly help protect you, it helps protect us, too.

2. Protect What is Valuable

I just got the new iPhone 7. The first thing I did, before I even took it out of the box, was buy a case. While I’ve never broken an iPhone, I have been known to drop them from time to time (one time even through a sewer grate). I’m convinced that the reason my phone has been able to handle some of its falls is because I always immediately put a case on it. I spent a lot of money on my phone, I need it to communicate and do my job, and I carry it with me everywhere I go. The last thing I want is for something terrible to happen to it.

The value of my phone doesn’t even compare to your value. You were made good. You were made beautiful. The world says that your value and power is only based on how much of your body you show. The Church says that you are far more valuable than just your body. You are a heart, mind, body, and soul – and deserve to be treated as a whole person, not just a collection of body parts.

And because you have inherent dignity and worth, you should be protected – we put iPhones in cases and priceless works of art behind velvet ropes and expensive jewels in armored cars. You’re worth so much more than any of those things. Dressing modestly helps to protect you from being treated like a collection of body parts instead of as the whole person you are. It helps show that your value is in who you are not what your body looks like.

3. They’re Called Leggings, Not Pants

If they were pants, we’d call them pants.

4. Leggings are Accessories

I know that leggings are more comfortable, simpler, and easier than, let’s say, a pair of jeans. But ‘being comfortable’ isn’t the only reason women wear leggings. If comfort is your mission, baggy sweatpants are just as amazing (so I’ve been told; I can’t totally compare the two, that’s true). Sometimes leggings aren’t even found in the clothing section of stores – they are usually with the tights and other “under” things.

According to Glamour, “Opaque as they may be, think of them more as a warmer alternative to tights than a stretchy alternative to trousers.” Leggings can be a great way to stay warm, or complete an outfit. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of fashionable options to go with leggings – sweaters, tunics, or jackets. Don’t worry; they give plenty of tips on how to wear them.

5. Wear What is Appropriate

I think it goes without saying that jeans aren’t good for yoga, and they certainly won’t last long if you wear them running. Jeans aren’t made to be that flexible, and they don’t breathe as well, making them bad for working out.

These are times where leggings or tights are perfectly acceptable. It’s sort of like a bathing suit – it’s what you need for a pool, but it’s not acceptable for church, school, or a date. Leggings can certainly be appropriate for school, work, and church, just make sure you pair them with a long-enough top. Glamour sums it up again, “Unless you’re headed out for a run, tight spandex pants should never be worn with a fitted T-shirt, cropped sweater, or any other top that doesn’t cover your butt.”

Please remember that I’m on your team. I love and care about you, as your big brother in Christ. It is my goal and hope that all men treat all women with love and respect, something that has been lost in our world because we are so focused on ourselves.

If we could all try to see where others are coming from, and how our choices impact them, I hope – out of love, true love that wills the good of the other – we can understand that this isn’t just about an article of clothing. This is about loving your neighbor as yourself.

Do you have a question about dating and relationships you’d like to ask David and Rachel Leininger? Email them at Itscomplicated@lifeteen.com and your question could be the next blog post!