It is a serious question why such an unwholesome notion is spread over several cultures and why it can be found in countries as diverse as India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and America. Taking its strangely ubiquitous nature into account, is there any universal root for the notion that would explain why it appears in both India and Israel, in both Saudi Arabia and America, and -- apparently -- in most other countries?
I know of very little science on this issue, but I seem to recall one hypotheses: At root, the notion that immodest women are the downfall of men is part of a male strategy -- a tactic, if you will -- to put men in control of women's reproductive choices.
Sometimes the hypothesis is reasoned this way:
(1) Women, when they have the freedom to choose their own mates, typically go about that task by a process of attraction and selection. Basically, they make themselves as attractive to men as needed -- especially as physically attractive as needed -- and then they select a mate from among the men who are attracted to them.
(2) Given that women most frequently exercise choice by a process of attraction and selection, men have a number of options if they want to control women's reproductive choices. Those options include placing restrictions on a woman's freedom to make herself attractive. Such restrictions might include requiring her to dress in a manner that hides her physical attractiveness; requiring her to walk with eyes downcast; requiring her to speak of herself "modestly" or dismissively; prohibiting her from asking a man for a date; etc.
(3) The notion that immodest women cause a man's downfall is thus seen to be a cover, mask, or rationalization for controlling women's reproductive choices by restricting their ability to attract mates.
(4) Men who succeed in controlling women's reproductive choices thus place themselves in a better position to make those choices for women. And if they can make those choices for women, they will presumably make them most frequently for their (the men's) own benefit.
For the sake of discussion, let's now assume the hypothesis is sound. That is, the notion immodest women cause the downfall of men is a tactic men employ to assist them in controlling women's reproductive choices. Does that mean that every time we hear some man encourage some woman to "be more modest" we can be confident he is doing so to control her reproductive choices?
I don't think so. I think the hypothesis, if it is sound at all, would at best explain why the notion ever caught on, why it persists, and why it became nearly ubiquitous in its distribution. That is, it might explain the majority of cases. But as for explaining the behavior of any one person, I think it's quite likely that a significant minority of people who encourage women to be modest do so for reasons having nothing to do with the hypothesis.
For instance, I came across a comment left on a blog yesterday by a teenager that asked women to dress modestly for two reasons. First, to help the comment's author avoid masturbation. Second, to help its author avoid objectifying women.
Now, you might grin at that (as did I), but if we take his two reasons at face value, we have there a male who is asking women to "be more modest" for reasons other than to restrict women's reproductive choices. So, I think it would take a lot of work to sort out all the reasons people might have for the belief that immodest women are the downfall of men. But what do you yourself think might be the reasons or causes of such a heavy, gloomy, and unhealthy notion?