When Lipstick Is for Whores

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by Neil Godfrey

Many aeons ago I was a member of a strict religious cult that taught makeup originated with harlots and therefore wearing it was a sin against God that could condemn one to annihilation in the Book of Revelation’s Lake of Fire:

Most women, when asked WHY they use lipstick, will, of course, not confess: “I use it as an expression of vanity,” or “I use it to express an urge to be like the world.” 

No, most women will say: “I wear it to look nice” — or “to avoid offense.” They SAY it in words that sound harmless. But GOD KNOWS YOUR HEARTS better than you do — and HE knows that the heart of women, as well as men, is “Deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” And He asks: “Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9.) Yes, the inner intents of the heart often deceive its owner. TO WHOM does this woman wish to “look nice”? — to GOD? NO, for to GOD she looks like a painted artificial PROSTITUTE! . . . .

There is so much more that could be said on this subject that I could go on and on and fill 100 pages!* But I think this is enough! Every woman who wants that deceitfulness and wickedness removed from her heart is going to remove that physical colored dirt from her face once and for all!

Those yielded to the CHRIST who paid such a PRICE for this very cleansing will need no more. Those not so yielded would not repent and let the precious blood of Christ cleanse them, and their faces, though I write ten thousand pages! God lays down the LAW. God tells us WHAT IS SIN, and He tells us that this vain use of facial makeup is SIN!

But God leaves it to YOU to decide whether to sin! And never forget the PENALTY for this sin is DEATH for eternity in a Lake of FIRE! It is truly, an AWFUL — a FRIGHTFUL FATE. YOU are WARNED! You are a free moral agent. That decision is now YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!

(Thus saith HWA in Truth About Make-Up)

* The booklet Truth About Make-Up was 11,633 words long!


I never expected to hear that sentiment echoed in today’s “worldly discourse”:

Peterson: Why? Why do you make your lips red? Because they turn red during sexual arousal. That’s why. Why do you put rouge on your cheeks? Same reason. How about high heels? They’re there to exaggerate sexual attractiveness. That’s what high heels do. Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t use sexual displays in the workplace, I’m not saying that. But I am saying that that is what they’re doing, and that IS what they’re doing.

Vice: Do you feel like a serious woman who doesn’t want sexual harassment in the workplace, do you feel like if she wears makeup in the workplace, is being somewhat hypocritical?

Jordan Peterson: Yeah. I do think that.

(From Dispatches from the Culture Wars)


Okay, the “worldly discourse” replaces the fear of hell with the “don’t harass me at work” motivator, but it’s the same message. And I suppose that in the eyes of God as per the above exposition there is no difference between a whore and presenting oneself as a “sex object”.

Here’s a trip down memory lane. I once asked a fellow sister in “God’s church” to accompany me to a worldly wedding. She was godly, naturally, so didn’t wear makeup. Yet we knew everyone else, except for the men, would be wearing makeup there. I recall being conscious of how self-conscious my sister-in-Christ would be feeling at the occasion. We talked about it, of course.

But here’s the funny thing. I don’t ever recall her feeling conscious of being relieved that she did not look like a prostitute or me feeling that I was accompanied by a prostitute. To the extent that we felt different at all it was entirely to the extent that my companion was defying the standard custom.

That feeling should have taught us something: that God was a prick for thinking women wearing makeup today looked like prostitutes.

I cannot express it better than PZ Myers a recent blog post. (His explanation makes God out to be a sociopath, or at least God’s anointed end-time Apostle HWA to be a sociopath.)

Here’s another example of a fallacious interpretation. It’s from that infamous interview of Jordan Peterson with Vice.

There is so much wrong with so much of this interview, and I’m only picking on this one tiny part. But here are a few difficulties: red is a popular lipstick color, but how does he explain these other colors, which can also be quite attractive? What about the implicit racism in that claim — it’s a white trait to have a greater contrast in color between the lip and the face? What about the men — why do we have a vulva-mimic between our nose and our chin?

Where is Peterson’s evidence? This is another example of the Desmond Morris effect: he simply asserts that his interpretation is the obvious one, therefore it must be true.

Allow me to offer a better, alternative explanation.

Women are not putting on make-up in order to invite random men to have sex with them — that’s the explanation of a sociopath, someone who can’t empathize with another human being. Women are putting on makeup in order to conform to culturally defined standards of attractiveness. Often this involves accentuating attributes associated with femininity — under the influence of estrogen, human bodies develop fuller lips, so additional color is used to exaggerate female features. They are simply announcing, “I am a woman, and I look good”.

That is not synonymous with announcing “I am a sex object.”

It’s about taking pride in one’s appearance, making an effort to conform with society’s expectations, and about identifying with a group. Peterson is doing exactly the same thing by refusing to wear makeup and having a conventionally male hairstyle — he’s taking a position on how men ought to look, and conforming to social pressures.

That’s only a portion, of course. The full article is Have you ever noticed how often the origin of breasts is explained as “for men”?

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Neil Godfrey

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10 thoughts on “When Lipstick Is for Whores”

  1. It’s interesting that many men nowadays aren’t even attracted to women in their natural state (hairy legs, armpits, and vaginal area). The natural state of women (who don’t shave) is considered “gross” by many men.

      1. We are born into the norms that determine our sexual understanding and expression. For instance, it is already determined for us before hand that it is taboo to date one’s own sister, or, if we had been born in ancient Greece, institutionalized same sex pederastry (boy love) and thiasos (girl love) was part of society. Our unconscious is socially determined. For instance, have you ever wondered why female homosexuality is erotic to heterosexual men, but male homosexuality is not erotic to heterosexual women? Heterosexual men unconsciously have a harem fetish.

  2. Neil, the issue that jumps out here is the control of women by men using religion as a weapon, but interestingly the method discussed here is somewhat aligned with that of those feminists who see make-up as part of society’s control of women. E.g., I know some women who have never worn make-up, and who are sometimes seen as “difficult” or “standoffish”–I don’t see them that way, and I suspect that part of the reason for this reaction is that they are not wearing make-up, which makes them seem not quite like women, i.e., slightly anti-social. No one could be farther apart than your cult writer and these feminists, though, so the issue is the purpose behind the fashion advice.

    1. It’s a strange world. A good friend of mine in that cult had refused to wear makeup or shave any body parts on principle before becoming a member, and she had little sympathy for the women who felt social pressure to conform otherwise. She thought the teaching was a good one given that it cohered with her personal principles anyway.

      Key women close to centres of power did eventually lead to the church teaching being changed in favour of makeup. Then a political backlash came with sackings and the old guard being restored and one of the first doctrinal casualties was makeup. We were told that Satan had used the watering down of the makeup doctrine to lead to a “liberal” coup in the church. But it could not last. The women had the last say and makeup did become “permissible” – “in moderation”, etc.

      Yes, you are right. There is a chasm between the motives and functions of the two worlds.

  3. It’s amazing that PZ Myers, a biologist, lives in a world where sexual selection and intrasexual competition don’t exist for humans.

    That whole post is about how large(r) breasts on women being an example of sexual selection is misogynistic and sexist, yet nothing is noted about how the same sort of sexual selection happened on men: Human males have the largest male sex organ relative to our bodies compared to other primates.

    Peterson is obviously arguing from the sort of fundamentalism that you’re familiar with, but Myers is arguing from a different sort of fundamentalism. Without even reading the whole post, I can bet that he thinks that large(r) breasts on women just “sorta happened” because that’s the hypothesis that matches most closely with his brand of fundamentalism. “Just sorta happened” doesn’t present any naturalistic fallacy inroad to any whom he would deem misogynists.

    1. I think you might change your mind if you read Myers’ post. A big stumbling block to any sexual-selection hypothesis is the extreme variation in size from individual to individual. Another is this:

      “Breasts are not sexual signals in many cultures. It’s bizarre to assume that a peculiar Western obsession is a human universal.”

      Ultimately, his objection to each theory boils down to a lack of evidence. If requiring evidence makes one a fundamentalist, then I’m also guilty as charged.

      1. Yet variation in size applies to height as well, that doesn’t mean we aren’t a sexually dimorphism species.

        The problem with Myers is that he thinks there are absolutely zero human characteristics that are the result of sexual selection, and zero human behaviors that are due to intrasexual competition; he is utterly blinkered. Just like a creationist, because of his stance on things completely unrelated to biology I could predict what conclusions he would draw about this.

        Even if one finds no current explanations satisfactory, prior probability favors an evolutionary explanation for morphological differences between the sexes.

  4. There’s another subtle function that lipstick serves, which is different from high heels. If a woman is attracted to a particular man, lipstick also hides her natural signal, which increases her bargaining power: she looks more attractive to him while being able to deny that she’s interested.

  5. I remember being taught in the Christian fundamentalist church that I grew up in that Armstrongites were all going to hell for being a religious cult – with or without makeup.

    I always carry cherry lip balm when I go wilderness canoeing. I do not like chapped lips, and this helps. I also have this idea that if I got in a deep doo doo situation and all hope seemed to be lost, I might remember my lip balm, smell the cherry and taste the cherry flavor, and maybe get a small positive boost to my moral. I also have this bizarre idea that if I do find myself in a deadly situation and my best is not going to be good enough, and the end of my life is at hand, I might be able to leave behind a morbid joke for search and rescue. One search and rescue person might say to another search and rescue person, “Are you sure he’s dead? His lips look so full of color?” Does this make me look like a painted artificial PROSTITUTE?

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