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