What About Bikinis?

Summer is coming and, in Christian circles at least, the big question is popping up again all over the place: “What about bikinis?” This season is a time full of pools, beaches, and the lake. And so, it isn’t a question of whether bikinis are going to be worn or not. Rather the question is “How should Christians look at the issue?” One popular blog post has already been circulating, a post written by Rachel Clark at Made In His Image. Though many think that this question should just go away forever and never be discussed again, the reality is that the issue will not just disappear overnight. Therefore, engaging people on this question is necessary. So… what about bikinis?

Firstly, I wanted to make it clear that I am addressing this as a male. Therefore, I realize that my opinions don’t carry the same weight or validity as a woman coming directly from a female perspective. However, I wanted to first address Rachel Clark and her thoughts. The big issue that is addressed is the matter of “lust”. However, unlike a lot of popular Christian articles on this topic, she did acknowledge that guys are the ones with the problem and that ” they should control it”, rather than putting all of the blame on the girl. I also appreciate the fact that she said that girls are to “help out” their brothers in Christ. As the body of Christ, we are to look out for one another and to help each other grow in the faith. But that’s where there may be a problem with her line of thinking.

Clark makes a big deal out of not wearing a bikini as a “sacrifice”. Dressing modestly becomes something that girls must do to look out for the best interest of their brothers in Christ. And though she doesn’t put all of the blame on the girls, she does admit that “part of it is our [girls’] problem”. She sells the message of “boys will notice what you advertise”. Therefore, if you  want guys to notice your personality, smile, or love for God, then advertise that, and not your butt, chest, or any other part of your body. Clark likens girls’ wearing bikinis in the eyes of a guy to a health nut being tempted to eat chocolate cake. Someone then follows them around with the cake as they try to exercise. Eventually, since the cake is being imposed on her, she’ll give in and eat the cake.

To me, there is a huge flaw in this thinking. And I have heard arguments similar to this. “Would you put alcohol directly in the face of a struggling alcoholic?” a person would ask to girls, “Then why would you wear a bathing suit in front of guys who struggle with lust?” Not only are you comparing desire for a food or drink with sexually objectifying someone against their own will, but you are perpetuating the objectification of the woman in an attempt to stop just that! Therefore, you reveal that your primary desire is not to help end the objectification of women, but make it easier for those who are actually objectifying the women. Plus, if you were to be consistent in the analogy between the cake and alcohol, then there is a huge difference between something being imposed onto you against your will (as the analogies suggest) and freely deciding to go to a place where, for example, alcohol is offered or cake is sold.

And I think this is where the solution lies. Remember, the point of not wearing bikinis in the first place was to help out the guys. So, I think many would agree with the sentiment. But, the question is: in what way should girls help the guys out? Should it be by not wearing bikinis? I don’t think that would do much of anything. The problem with the alcoholic won’t be fixed by someone simply not having a beer when he or she is around him. Rather, he would need to get professional help and actually avoid going to places that he knows will stimulate the problem that he has. I think the solution should be the same for those who struggle with lust and objectification of women.

Just like Clark suggests, we should aim to help out these guys. Absolutely. Sisters should want to help their brothers out! However, perhaps helping out a brother who is struggling with lust and the objectification of women should look differently than girls not wearing bikinis. Perhaps it should look like his not going to the beach, where girls are going to be in bikinis. If his lust and proneness to objectify women are that much of a problem, then why should he go to places like that in the first place? He knows what he will be tempted to do. And if he chooses to go anyways, then why does that mean that the girls have to alter their swimwear to facilitate his own problem and perversion? Instead of enforcing an oppressive system of swimwear uniformity amongst women to facilitate these guys with problems, we should aim to get these guys professional help and tell them to actually stay away from situations and places (such as beaches and pools) where their personal problem could become a problem for others.

Blaming girls for the problems and perversion of the guys needs to stop. I would quote Jesus saying for His followers to deal with the plank in one’s own eye before pointing out the speck in the other, but it seems to me that there is not even speck on the other side. Just one big plank. The solution of the problem is not to monitor what girls are wearing, but to deal with those who objectify and lust in the first place. If a guy is going to lust after and objectify women, a little more fabric on their bodies is not going to fix that. A trash bag couldn’t fix that. Telling girls to avoid wearing bikinis in public places where guys will be is like cutting away the branches, but unless the root is dug up, the problem will remain. Not to mention that the same kind of steps aren’t being taken with the swimwear of the men.

So this summer, if you are a guy who struggles with lust or who is prone to objectify women, I urge you to stay away from situations where your own problem might then become a problem to others. You shouldn’t impose your own struggle onto others or expect them to change because of it. Rather, seek help. God can heal you and redeem you. Jesus came to conquer the powers that hold you in bondage. Recognize that this is a real problem and be bold enough to assume complete responsibility, not transferring any of it to any girls. This doesn’t mean that God loves you any less or that you are without hope. God forgives you and loves you. And He also longs for you to love His daughters the way that He does, purely and absent of lust and objectification. When you get to a place where you can see women as fellow humans and not objects of lust, then join them in the fun of the pool, lake, or beach. Until then, there are plenty ways to have a fun summer. Take advantage of that!

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This is an excerpt from my book, “Church Kid: Restoring Your Faith After Being Raised in Church,” now available for purchase here.

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11 thoughts on “What About Bikinis?

  1. This is a very interesting article. I love getting to see this particular take on the issue from a male perspective. What would you say in situations where avoiding girls in less-than-beneficial swimwear is not possible? For example, being a male youth leader going to a summer camp with your kids where all-camp activities include things at the pool and lake?

    1. “Less-than-beneficial swimwear”? I’m not sure what you’re meaning. The point of the article was to say that the problem isn’t the bikini, but the onlooking male who is objectifying the woman. That being said, you present an interesting situation. In that case (and if you are referring to a Christian summer camp), I would question if having activities involving pools and lake would be beneficial in that type of setting in the first place. Since I would know that I would be dealing with boys that consider being around bathing suits and bikinis a problem, I would probably not schedule any events that require it in the first place. That way, you aren’t telling girls what they should wear or putting guys in a situation where they might be more prone to objectify or lust after the girls. You are simply not doing those activities.

      Like I said, men freely going to a place, like the beach or a public pool, where they know that their own problem would become a problem to others is a very different thing. If they want to do that and at the same time tell girls that they shouldn’t wear bikinis, I think they are overstepping their boundaries and should first deal with their own problem.

  2. I understand where you’re coming from, but I can’t say I agree with your article entirely. You say that men should avoid places such as the beach/pool until they can get their lust problem fixed, but I don’t think that’s the type of problem that can just be fixed and not happen again. It’s something men constantly struggle with..even Christian men. So for you to say to avoid that, I just don’t think makes sense. And the same would go for wherever females wear skimpy clothes (mall, etc.). So should men avoid those places too? That would basically mean that men can’t go anywhere until they fix their lust problem. I think Rachel was trying to say that we should be making things easier as females for the men we come in contact with, and not be so distracting with the way we dress. She didn’t say that females were ENTIRELY to blame for men’s lustful thoughts. But the way they choose to dress can contribute to those thoughts, that’s all. She meant that the lustful desires of men are not only brought about by their minds/what they see, but what we ALLOW them to see by what we wear. It’s just a good idea for women to heed what they put on so as to not make other men stumble. I don’t think their lust is a problem that can be fixed once and for all. It’s a daily struggle for guys. They can limit the amount of time they spend at certain places, but to avoid everything isn’t the best solution.

    1. My thoughts exactly. If you take this view that men should avoid the places where they face temptation and add to it the inherent sexuality of our modern day society, you would be left with many men who would never leave their homes. I agree that the blame shouldn’t be put on women who choose to wear things such as bikinis, but I do think they hold some responsibility in that choice. I’m not saying that they need to wear fully covering one piece suits, but (at least for me) it is far less tempting to see a woman in a bikini that modestly covers her body as opposed to one that is too small that she “hangs out of”. Basically, I’m saying that the choice between modest and immodest swim suits doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice between a bikini or not.

  3. I really like your thinking, as I was actually thinking about this today. However, I also believe that, being a woman, we should do as the Bible says and dress modestly. Regardless of whether surrounding people struggle with lust or objectification, we are called to dress modestly and should adhere to our Christian callings. Therefore I do not think it is entirely true to put the guys at fault here, because I personally feel that dressing immodestly is as much of a sin as lusting after another. (Though I do see how modestly can be perceived differently among people, making the ‘bikini question’ even harder to answer).

    Anyway, I really enjoyed this article! I feel like as a Christian girl, I have been raised in a way that had caused me to view men as animals who cannot help but act on their sexual desires, especially when presented with something like a pretty girl in a little swimsuit. So of course I have been made to dress in a way where clothing covers every part of my body, because my brother’s in Christ “can’t help themselves” if they so much as see something they think is pretty.

    Which of course, because of the redeeming blood of Jesus, is not true, as Jesus gives us the power to resist the Evil One and flee from temptation.

    This response feels awfully jumbled and I apologize for that, however I would like to say I admire you for writing this article, and I enjoyed the read. Personally, I believe the Bikini Issue is more of a two way street problem than either side would like to admit.

    1. I totally agree with you! I am all for modesty. HOWEVER, I think that, like you said, modesty looks very differently for individuals. For example, I know older women (and some younger ones) who are convicted if they are wearing anything less than a ankle length dress/skirt and long sleeves. And though I don’t think it’s their place to make that be universally enforced, I don’t think it’s our place to tell them that they should be more “free” in their dress. It’s a personal conviction! So, I think the bikini question for girls has to do more about their own heart.

      My friend (who is a girl) said that girls should ask these questions:
      – As a girl, am I objectifying myself by wearing less clothing? It’s not merely a matter of whether or not other guys are turning me into the object of their lust… Am I objectifying myself, making myself uncomfortable, or compromising my perception of what modesty is?
      – As a girl, am I using what I wear to receive lustful attention, to alleviate my own insecurity, or to gain acceptance from others?
      – As a girl, do I feel that I am dishonoring the temple of the Holy Spirit (my body) by wearing less clothing?

      Again, that can look differently for each girl. But the focus shouldn’t be on what guys may or may not do as a result, but what their own heart is like in dressing how they dress. But, in the post, I did not want to address this side of the issue, mostly because I am a man. And I believe this side of the issue should be more of a “woman to woman” issue, if you know what I mean.

      But I’m glad you enjoyed it and thank you so much for you input!

  4. “He knows what he will be tempted to do.” This is the scariest thing. What girls and women wear is so often used as justification for not only objectification, but for sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. Thanks so much for this article, it really renewed my hope for my brothers in Christ. After all, if these guys are my brothers in Christ, how can they then objectify me and overlook my status as their sister in Christ in order to lust after me? How can someone attribute to themself the label of “brother” and be so hateful? Because that’s what it is – it’s hateful towards women to reduce them to an object through which you recieve sexual gratification, real or imagined. And that line about the men’s swimwear? Yeah, I’ve often thought about that, too! No-one tells the guys that they need to wear a t-shirt and board shorts in order to help their sisters in Christ who may have lust problems. These lust issues stem from a condition of the heart and can’t be remedied with a t-shirt. Men need to stop objectifying women – then the lust, the porn, the abuse… it all stops. When you love and respect women you’re not going to care more about your own sexual gratification than you do about their wellbeing and their status as a complex human being who is more or less the same as you are on the inside. Also as a final footnote: it’s really rich that we’re telling Christian girls to cover up when we know for a fact that loads of their boyfriends and husbands are going home and looking at porn, watching films that include sex-scenes, and drooling over lingerie catalogues – which is their own choice and has nothing to do with their sisters.

  5. I can both agree and disagree with parts of this article. I read the article about bikinis and it really rubbed me the wrong way. I believe that alot of times men and women manipulate women to be “modest.” “Think of the poor guys! Your causing your brothers to fall!” It’s not about being modest for guys. It’s about being modest simply because the bible says to. Of course we should consider our brothers in all things… but point blank, we obey the word because it is our nature to obey the word and believe on Christ. Modesty isn’t a “guy problem”…. in fact, when mentioning modesty the bible doesn’t say anything about men. It just tells women to do it. It’s a heart issue… not a man or woman issue.

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