Let’s Stop Hating On This Woman For Finding Leggings “Lustful”

Claire Hannum | January 24, 2015 - 12:00 pm

The go-to legging “controversy” has always been the “pants or not” debate, but these days, the focus seems to have shifted to the question of whether they’re some kind of symbol of sexual deviance. The most recent weigh-in comes from a woman named Veronica Partridge, who shared a post on her personal blog earlier this month about her decision not to wear them anymore to prevent the “lustful thoughts” of random dudes. She told People, “It had been something that was on my mind for quite some time. I didn’t want to possibly cause another man, especially a married man, to look at me in a way I believe he should only look at his wife.”

Partridge, a Christian and a homemaker, lives on a farm in central Oregon with her family. An excerpt of her musings:

“DISCLAIMER: Let me just start off by saying, I am in NO WAY trying to tell people what they can and cannot wear. What you wear is entirely your own choice. I am just sharing my personal story on why I chose to no longer wear yoga pants or leggings in public. 

For the past several months, I have been having a conviction weighing heavy on my heart. I tried ignoring it for as long as I could until one day a conversation came up amongst myself and a few others (both men and women). The conversation was about leggings and how when women wear them it creates a stronger attraction for a man to look at a woman’s body and may cause them to think lustful thoughts…I went home later that day and shared the convictions I was having with my husband. Was it possible my wearing leggings could cause a man, other than my husband, to think lustfully about my body? I asked my husband his thoughts on the matter when he got home. I appreciated his honesty when he told me, ‘yeah, when I walk into a place and there are women wearing yoga pants everywhere, it’s hard to not look. I try not to, but it’s not easy.’…If it is difficult for my husband who loves, honors, and respects me to keep his eyes focused ahead, then how much more difficult could it be for a man that may not have the same self-control? Sure, if a man wants to look, they are going to look, but why entice them? Is it possible that the thin, form-fitting yoga pants or leggings could make a married (or single) man look at a woman in a way he should only look at his wife?…And at that moment, I made a personal vow to myself and to my husband. I will no longer wear thin, form-fitting yoga pants or leggings in public. The only time I feel (for myself) it is acceptable to wear them, is if I am in the comfort of my own home or if I am wearing a shirt long enough to cover my rear end. I also want to set the best example of how to dress for my daughter. I want her to know, her value is not in the way her body looks or how she dresses, but in the character and personality God has given her. I have been following the vow I made to myself for the past couple of weeks  now and though it may be difficult to find an outfit at times, my conscience is clear and I feel I am honoring God and my husband in the way I dress.”

This little passage landed her on daytime TV and sparked quite the controversy. While I personally fervently disagree with Partridge, I don’t know that she deserves the widespread condemnation she’s been receiving. I feel that some of her views are problematic, but she’s insisted she has zero aim of starting a movement and isn’t exactly convincing others to stop wearing them along with her. The only person I’d worry for is her daughter, who may grow up with the very dangerous idea that she’s responsible for men’s poor sexual behavior — but since Partridge had her daughter in mind when she made her choice about the leggings in the first place, I’d like to think she’ll make sure her kid grows up with a healthier worldview than that. Aside from that, who the hell cares if one less woman is wearing leggings in the world?

That doesn’t mean I don’t take issue with Partridge’s argument. For starters, I’ve never understood the idea of leggings being such sexual magnets in the first place because I feel like they are woefully unflattering on 90 percent of the population (which I think is worth the trade-off for comfort, by the way, as I still gleefully wear them). Then again, I’m not a dude, so maybe leggings look different to most male minds? What particularly irks me about Partridge’s story is that when her husband tells her he has trouble not looking at other women in their leggings, she takes that as a cue to cover herself up, which doesn’t really correlate. Covering up her ass does not mean other women will in turn cover up their asses, so all she’s doing is inhibiting her own behavior while her husband continues to struggle not to stare at everyone else’s exposed ass, so she’s not exactly helping him out with much. Is she trying to help out fellow married dudes harness their own “self-control” when they see her out in public? Is she trying to do a favor to skeezy guys’ wives by providing one less ass for them to stare at besides their wives’? Does not compute. Guys who are going to be unfaithful or creepy or what have you will do so regardless of whether one more woman is or isn’t wearing leggings, and Partridge even acknowledges that herself. It’s not her job to protect other couples’ marriages with her clothing choices. It’s each individual couple’s job to take care of their marriage’s health. It’s especially not her job to worry about other men’s self-control, nor is it any other woman’s problem either.

I also feel that in many situations, a coupled person noticing other attractive people in public, and maybe even thinking — gasp — “lustful thoughts” is not a form of unfaithfulness. The kind of “looking” that Partridge’s husband tries to avoid sounds like nothing but human nature. Obviously, it’s a very fine line, and I definitely don’t want to imply I’m cool with any form of cheating or harassment. I just know that humans are humans, our eyes are drawn to what we find aesthetically appealing, and if we’re waiting in line at the coffee shop and occasionally register an unspoken flicker of a thought like “wow, amazing abs” on a passerby, it shouldn’t be cause to panic about the stability of our marriage or relationship. Simply acknowledging that a stranger is attractive is a different and less harmful thing than, say, sexually harassing someone, gratuitously gaping at them, or trying to pick them up despite being committed to someone else. If a man (or woman, for that matter) feels the need to cheat the first time a beautiful woman walks past him, and it’s to the point that his wife needs to actively worry about it, he’s just not a great monogamous partner to begin with.

All that said, Partridge doesn’t deserve all this backlash. Personally, I also feel exposed when I wear leggings without my butt being covered, not out of dedication to a husband or religion, but because I’m bugged by the aforementioned “unflattering” factor. Nobody needs to see camel toe, panty lines, or a sloppy-looking fit bunching around my ass. Trust. It’s not cute, and in a way, I think wearing them that way has a (very small) negative impact on my day, just like Partridge does. Instead of “lustful thoughts,” I worry that my leggings (well really, my exposed ass) will provoke thoughts that I’m an overall sloppier, lazier, and tackier person. It doesn’t exactly keep me up at night, but it’s something that crosses my mind when I wear them. This isn’t true for everyone, because lots of women have the ability to pull that look off and look great in it, whether it’s because of their shape or their styling tricks or just the fact that they own a pair that fits them better. Personally, though, I don’t like it on myself, so I try to wear long tops when I put on leggings. I’m sure I’ve even mentioned it publicly in writing before, and yet, my choice has not sparked a “national conversation” like Partridge’s, because my reasoning is more common. But really, is her choice all that different? In general, we all choose clothes we’re comfortable in and avoid the ones we don’t like, just like she does. That’s personal style.

As women, it’s so important to recognize oppression and make the world a safer place to be female, but in our pursuit of that, it’s easy for innocuous people to get caught in the crossfire. Partridge is not trying to change how the female population dresses. She’s just doing her thing, and throwing her under the bus doesn’t help her or other women, it just leaves one more person feeling bullied in the world, and perhaps even alienated by the feminist movement. Internet, we can do better than this! [People] [Image via Shutterstock]